Tony lives with his wife Patricia, they have grown up children, and support Patricia’s mum who lives with dementia. Their daughter encouraged them to go on the Empowered Conversations course at the end of last year.
“We knew something wasn’t right with mum, but we thought we could sort it out. I’m a doer and usually I make people’s lives better. At the time we were constantly correcting her which just highlighted her fading memories. We realised that we were making her situation worse”.
“Chatting through our experiences with the facilitators and especially with others going through a similar journey made us realise that we needed to change our approach to help mum.
Our Light Bulb moment came when we realised that our attempts to help mum do things put her under more pressure. We switched to being supporters instead of doers. Mum is more relaxed now and there is less conflict! We stand back from doing, make sure she is safe and importantly that she doesn’t feel criticised”.
What advice would you offer to others in a similar situation?
“Stay as calm as you possibly can with your interactions and when responding to their behaviours. This is really hard to do because our emotions kick in. We already have a history of how they make us feel that will impact on our emotions. But if you can stay calm it will help. We’ve adopted this and it makes a difference. Try not to take behaviours and comments personally”.
How has your family dynamic changed?
“Patricia and I talk in a more relaxed way about mum now. I felt like a bit of a by-stander when I first went on the course, now it feels that Patricia and I have strengthened our partnership to better support mum. We go out together more. Patricia still sees her mum more because of my work commitments.
We are all more relaxed, our children have seen how this helps and they’ve become more relaxed now when they are around mum. Mum will take out her frustrations more on Patricia. I think that’s normal for the person doing most of the caring, so I talk about the things that Pat might not be able to with her. If we are going somewhere, we now plan out how we are going to approach it, we talk more, and it has made a massive difference”.