How to Help People with Dementia Improve Print E-mail

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Change your focus – Change your experience

“Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right!”
Henry Ford

If we are to assist people with dementia to improve, we need to believe that improvement is possible. The first step to achieving this is to change our belief from: dementia is an irreversible degenerative disease without a cure, to one that says; dementia is simply a disability of certain parts of the brain.

To understand the power of this statement, we introduce you to the fascinating communication tool known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is a way of understanding how we use language to program our brain. Let’s take the present day belief about dementia being an irreversible degenerative disease without a cure. If we accept these powerful words at face value, they program us at a subconscious level. Without being aware of it, they condition our minds to a very narrow view of the prognosis for the person with dementia.

If these words become our belief, improvement will not be the first thought that comes to mind when we think of dementia. Instead these words will automatically condition us to believe something like; The disease is taking hold of the person and dragging him or her downhill; no matter what I do or how much I try, the disease will have its ‘own way’ and I can’t do anything about it.

How our focus determines the experience
NLP helps us understand how we process the information that comes into our brains and how we create a simplified version of our experiences in our minds. NLP shows that the simplified version we may accept is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the actual experience, and is largely determined by what we focus on.

Imagine a bus crowded with passengers who all board at the same stop and are making exactly the same trip. Each will have a different experience determined by what is important to them. In other words, by what they focus on.

One of the male passengers is riding the bus for the first time and has been told that he must get off at the stop where there is a hotel on one corner and a petrol station on the other. He will sit with his attention firmly focused on finding that corner with the distinguishing landmarks.

The second passenger is an elderly lady who makes the trip not because she has any particular destination in mind but purely for the enjoyment of it. She loves gardens and flowers; being seated high on the bus allows her to look over fences and into people’s gardens.

The third passenger is not the slightest bit interested in what goes on outside the bus because she just loves to sit and observe her fellow passengers and make up stories about each of them; why they are on the bus; where they have come from; where they are going; why they are going and so on.

When the bus arrives at the stop with the hotel on one corner and petrol station on the other, quite coincidentally, all three of the above passengers get off.

Although each of them has travelled on exactly the same bus, on the same route, at the same time – each of them will have had a very different experience.

What they will remember afterwards will be their personal, simplified version of the trip – determined by what they were focusing on during the ride.

So it is with everything we do – our focus determines our experience.

Inspiration from another field
When experts work with people who have a physical disability, they use a two-pronged positive approach. Firstly, they work on improving the functions that the disability affects to the highest possible level; then they shift the focus to strengthen every other function and resource that the person has to compensate for the areas that no longer work to their full capacity. They adopt a positive mindset by thinking that:

“Disability” means “Possibility”

We need to apply this same principle to dementia.

  1. Acknowledge the disability and work on improving it to the highest level of functioning.
  2. Make a conscious decision to focus our attention on what the person is still able to do and help build on those areas so they can compensate for the disability.
Once we consciously make the shift from focusing on the disease, and what’s wrong with the person, to focusing on the person’s abilities and all that they are still able to do; we take the first and most important step towards helping the person with dementia to improve.

We hope that this article may serve as a catalyst for all to experience the joys of helping people with dementia grow and become proactive in a community where we foster a new focus on health and wellness and the belief that improvement is possible!

Further reading – Click topic
  • How to Help People with Dementia Improve – Members Article – Jane Verity (Read the full version of this article to discover how beliefs are maintained; learn how our brain operates a clever filtering system plus more on NLP.)
  • The Nun Study – Précis/Members article – Jane Verity (Read of Dr. David Snowdon’s amazing research findings showing that some of the participating nuns – at autopsy – revealed brains riddled with the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease, yet showed no symptoms of dementia while alive.)
  • How can Aromatherapy Help People with Dementia? – Members article – E. Joy Bowles BSc. (Joy’s article reveals how the ‘sense of smell is non-verbal and can get through” to emotions when words fail’; the use of smells can help orient people with dementia to time and space; tips for choosing and using the right oils to lessen anxiety, agitation and depression.)
  • Brahmi – The Traditional Ayurvedic Brain Tonic – Members article – Dr Ruth Cilento – (world-renowned holistic medical practitioner and author of Heal Cancer and Age without Alzheimer’s shares how Brahmi improves learning processes and memory; how it works; who can benefit; why brahmi is particularly therapeutic for the elderly, plus more on its health benefits.)
  • Gingko Biloba – Members article – Dr Ruth Cilento – (world-renowned holistic medical practitioner and author of Heal Cancer and Age without Alzheimer’s explains the many healing properties of Gingko Biloba, its positive effects on memory and learning abilities and for arresting symptoms of dementia.)
  • The Garbage Run Miracle - Members article – Colin’s amazing real-life story of improvement.
  • The Garbage Run Miracle Continued – Members article - Colin’s incredible improvement continues.

Relevant Resources:
10 Top Memory Tactics – A3 poster – Visit our Online Store
NLP The New Technology of Achievement – Book – Steve Andreas and Charles Faulkner, Nicolas Brealey Publishing 1996 UK. (Easy to read and understand and certain to help readers make improvements in their lives, whether they be fear of criticism, lack of motivation, low self-esteem or wanting to change habits.)

Aging with Grace – The Nun Study – Book – David Snowdon Ph. D., Bantam Books 2001 USA (Not availbale from Dementia Care Australia) Click here to visit



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