The Value of Feeling Valued

9 Apr

For our companions with memory loss, the ability to accomplish simple, every-day tasks becomes increasingly more challenging.   Asking our partners to do the easiest of chores often gets misinterpreted by them and done in odd ways that we can not comprehend.

I found that easy directions like, “Honey will you take your dirty dish to the sink?” could lead to my husband heading with his dish to the bathroom, garage, or putting it in a kitchen cabinet or the freezer!  He always felt he was accomplishing the task and saw no wrong while  I, too many times, got angry and scolded him for such silly behavior.  My reprimand, in turn, caused his lashing out at me and throwing child-like tantrums.   I realized that the frustrations existed for both of us and, too often, led to stressful clashes.  During these tense moments, no words could seem to bring resolution.   After many skirmishes over such issues, I have learned to remain unflappable — reminding myself that it is not he that is at fault, it is the disease.  By practicing patience, silence, and positive body language, I find less stress for both of us.  (I now simply remove the soiled plate from the freezer, say nothing, and go on with life as if it were normal!)

Still, my husband continues to ask, Can I help?  I have learned to say, Yes, and to give him simple chores that I feel he can handle. The tasks I assign to him include: drying dishes; folding the wash; putting linens in the closet;  sorting socks or rearranging a drawer.  Sometimes, I create a simple, unnecessary task that still helps give him a sense of responsibility. Whatever the outcome,  I make it a point to compliment him on a job well-done without scrutiny or judgement.  Not only does this new practice allow more individual time for me to accomplish my tasks at hand, it supports Ernie’s desire to help and gives him a feeling of value.   I have found that with this change in my behavior, we can work well together with less frustration.

We must not overlook the value of our loved one’s need to feel indispensable, accomplished and appreciated.   He/she already is aware of  the personal loss in abilities that were once possible.  What a difference it can make for our partners to still feel a sense of need and value in our lives!

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