This is the 1st edition the Brain Sparks newsletter, put together to connect with you who, over a period of a number of years, have been interested in my work, taken a class with me, been in one of my trainings or just been curious about what Brain Sparks is.
It’s been a challenging few months as I merge my work with Ageless Grace® and AGE-u-cate® under the single banner of Brain Sparks, sharing these amazing offerings with my own work involving ageing and, in particular, dementia.
Most of my working life as an educator has seen me involved with people with special needs. I remember the little non-verbal 5-year old girl, just one of the children in my class of 40. Then I think about the 18-year old with an eating disorder, who would hide one hand behind the other in front of her face, thinking that we would not see her suck her thumb. The 15-year old boy with epilepsy, put into a class of developmentally delayed teenagers, because they were all “different”. During the many training courses I ran in industry, there would have been several who were illiterate, all trying to hide their inability to read because of the stigma.
These are some of the people I knew about, could understand their needs and learn to communicate with them. What about the people I’ve met, perhaps on a holiday or in the shops, who lived their life with stigma because of a disease such as dementia, unable to communicate their needs at that moment? They could have been feeling frustrated or confused; angry or in pain. Many of the things that we take for granted are taken from them, ostensibly in their best interests.
Neurological disorders have many life-changing effects on the person, the family and those who care for them. We can learn that different abilities and different needs can be accommodated in our communities, and this is where Brain Sparks comes in. Let’s help those who struggle by learning about their life and how we can help. Let’s learn simple ideas and tools that will support all of us, whether we are a caregiver, a neighbour, a friend, or anyone who wants to improve the lives of people with dementia.
When I reach out and take a hand, will you let me?
Many of us are willing to lend a hand. Many people take the hand that is offered to them but there are some who don’t want to be a burden on their loved ones or think they don’t need it. My grandmother was fiercely independent until she finally became housebound and bedridden. It cost her a great deal to admit that she was no longer the strong, capable woman she had been but was now frail and vulnerable.
What can we do to help our loved ones who could do with some help but are not willing to ask for it? Before we do anything else, we want to put ourselves in their shoes. How did that person live his or her life before their capabilities changed? We need to understand their feelings, their helplessness, or the admission that their life is changing in ways they had never imagined.
But most of all we need to show we care, which can be difficult when the person we try to help is making your approaches unwelcome. But these are times when you maybe put your hurts to one side and appreciate the effort you have gone to, even if your loved one doesn’t.
Try these tips:
- Rethink the scenario. Was it the right time or the right action that you tried to take? Did you try to make a decision that they could have taken? Are you feeling hurt about something unintended?
- Don’t look to blame. Whether you think you could have done something better, or your loved one should have done something different, blame will not help. Learn, perhaps, that walking with them to the letterbox would be a better option than just posting the mail yourself. Or that when they are totally unappreciative of your help you may need to take a backward step. Bite back that sharp reply.
- Talk about feelings when it’s safe to do so. When everyone is feeling calm and rational it will be much easier to reflect on what happened and discover boundaries of what help will be appreciated.
- Be kind to yourself. You did your best. Perhaps it wasn’t appreciated. Maybe tomorrow. Now go and find something that will replenish your wellbeing.
Contact us if you’d like to know more about how we can help.