A guide for family carers – capturing life’s journey

By Jonathon Acton - jonathan.acton@homeinstead.ie

With a dementia diagnosis comes a mountain of uncertainty. What does the future hold? What is your role? How will this condition affect your loved one?

Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias lead to nerve cell death and tissue loss in the brain. Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all of its functions.

This means your loved one may experience changes in personality, relationships and abilities. These changes can be among the hardest for families to face.

The right approach to caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is key to maintaining your loved one’s quality of life. That approach needs to ensure your loved one’s needs are at the forefront.

Knowing key information, life experiences and personal preferences about your loved one helps caregivers provide dignified and respectful care.

Home Instead Senior Care calls this approach Capturing Life’s Journey.

People with dementia often use experiences from the past to make sense of the present. And accompanying that with the reality that a person with dementia can no longer store new information efficiently, gathering stories and information from your loved one’s past helps to carry out this approach. By knowing and using the information, it will help you create meaningful activities, and provide personalised care.

Techniques to Capture Life’s Journey

When you are on this journey, it might be helpful to gather information chronologically, or by topic.

Some examples include family, youth, parents, and the childhood house, schools, teachers, pets and family traditions.

A few other examples include marriage, milestone events, favourite films, TV programmes, people, food.

You probably already know many of your loved one’s important experiences, and these will be a great place for you to start finding out more.

Many of their most vivid memories will be of times when they were growing up with their family.

Accomplishments and careers are also important facts to learn more about.

There are a few ways that you can gather your loved one’s life story:

1. Asking them directly

2. Observing their surroundings

3. Asking other family and friends.

When gathering information, be sure to use open-ended questions. These types of questions prompt a more elaborate answer than a “Yes” or “No.” The questions will encourage your loved one to speak more or share a memory.

Another good way to gather information is by observing the home or room for objects that will yield clues.

Even though you are likely to be familiar with your loved one’s surroundings, once you start to ask more questions about an object you will learn much more. You may also observe their non-verbal cues, facial expressions and gestures.

Home Instead, Marlinstown Office Park, Mullingar - 044 9385260

More from this Topic