You know that expression "Stop and smell the roses"? The benefits of slowing down to "be in the moment" are truer than ever when you're dealing with someone struggling with dementia. Someone who has early memory loss has to work harder to remember words, faces, sequences, and how everyday things work -- and rushing the person along only adds to his or her anxiety. Even the most routine activities will take longer.
Allowing extra time and resisting the urge to jump in and take over won't always be easy, but it's almost always rewarded by a less stressful, more pleasant experience. Here are three ways to practice what experts call "mindfulness" as a caregiver:
1. Stop to breathe. Of course you're breathing all the time. But pausing in a tense situation to breathe in a conscious way will help you stay calm and connected. Inhale from deep in your belly, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Make your breaths slow and steady.
2. Take it in and then let it go. When you feel your tension rising, take a mental time-out. Instead of moving on to the thousand things you're not getting done and are running late for, pause to simply observe how you're feeling right in that moment. Acknowledge it: "Boy, I'm getting tense. This is making me crazy." Simply pausing to be an observer of yourself can help nip escalating stress.
3. Turn bad into good. Another way to bring attention to the moment and away from the tension that builds is to flip your thoughts from negative to positive. Consider what you love about your loved one. Focus not on what he or she has lost, but who he or she still is and still can do. Sometimes that shift is enough to spark momentary gratitude for the present moment.