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Distressed Reactions

Something else I hear often is that people living with dementia become “aggressive” as if it is a “normal part of the illness”. People living with dementia are not emotionally dead. On the contrary – most of their emotions are now locked up inside. They feel hurt and angry and lonely and scared – just like we do! In fact, I think a thousand times more than we do! There is no such thing as “aggressive behaviour”. How about we see this as a distressed reaction? And ask ourselves what the person living with dementia is trying so hard to communicate with us – that we fail to see – to the point where they get so frustrated that they are forced to show us their raw, unfiltered emotions? Imagine being locked up in a cage with one-way glass: you can see everything that is going on outside, but have no way of responding to what you see/hear/feel, no one can see into your soul. People talking about you, doing things to and for you, making assumptions about you. And you are locked into this world where no one hears your silent voice of desperation. When you just want the be held, or left alone, or be heard, comforted…but you are in a space where the world continues as if you do not exist. Between feeding you and bathing you and giving you medication they think that they are “taking care” of you. Yet, no one sees YOU. No one reaches into your world of excruciating loneliness.

Every reaction of a person living with dementia is a communication, trying to tell us something. It is US who do not comprehend the message. It is OUR inability to understand that causes them to react. Again: be present. Be still. Slow down. Hold them in your presence, af rm their distress, and see the person. Be kind – as kind as you want people to be when you are feeling distressed and anxious. No, actually be a lot kinder.

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