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Dr. Cate McCarty - Seasons of Dementia

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A caregiver recently reflected that the course of dementia changes seasons many times in a day. Sometimes the man you have lived with for 40 years is right there; other times he is replaced by a 10-year old boy.  Sometimes Mama is her alert and humorous self; other times she is unresponsive. 

Autumn offers caregivers the opportunity to reflect on these changes—some colorful, some seemingly bleak.  The journey can seem ever changing, like the seasons, and lead to what can feel like a bleak winter.

As we enter the shorter days of climate and brain change, we can focus on the senses to not only enrich our loved one’s life but ours as well.

Capturing good memories by recreating the sensory characteristics which bring those memories back to mind.  If you and your loved one always watched parades, watching them is something you can continue.  Perhaps you will mute the volume to lessen agitation, watch them together for a shorter time, or perhaps tape them in order to watch them fully after your loved one is asleep. 

If the scent of fir and balsam brings back priceless memories of fresh cut trees or fall hikes, utilize sachets or air sprays which can offer you and your loved one an aromatic reminder of past seasons.

Perhaps there is a favorite recipe which brings back memories of mom or family time or even time shared with one another. You may no longer have the time or energy to make it, but maybe a friend would; or you could purchase a similar looking and tasting food item.

If comfort has always been defined as a fleece blanket on a chilly night or a favorite pair of slippers, these are important pieces of the patchwork of memories we can capture. 

If hiking, raking or sitting in front of a bonfire once resonated as romantic or spiritual, we can capture a bit of this emotion by using our creativity. 

Cognitive loss is tough on individuals and on relationships. As caregivers, we are the change agents, navigating seasonal changes constantly. Let’s encourage one another to add color to the season by using the senses to recreate moments of happiness.

By-line:  Cate McCarty, PhD, ADC has been collaborating with Arden Courts in a variety of roles since the late 90’s. Her background in nursing, activities and admissions has given her a passionate commitment to quality of life for the individual and family with dementia. As Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach, Cate consults with families and care communities to Create a Thriving Environment. Cate is now personally caring for her spouse who has a diagnosis of dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.