Activity 20.4: Reflection

Write down a few things that can make you stressed.

These will include a range of physical, psychological and interpersonal situations.

Now write down what you do when you become stressed.

These will probably include some form of emotional release and may involve anger or tears.

Reflect for a moment about your reasons and responses to stress. Stress can most often be caused by the way other people behave with us, by personal worries about our health or welfare or by feeling insecure, unhappy or undervalued. This could make us react by being tearful, angry, agitated, withdrawn or aggressive. The causes and reactions of the person with dementia to stress are the same as yours. The main difference is that you have more control over much of your life and can usually find a way to reduce stress. What might happen if you were not able to exert control?

Now imagine this:  You are in a large supermarket outside your usual area and you have your own or a friend’s children with you. Suddenly you cannot see the children and you know it is time for them to be home as it is well past dinnertime. You search frantically, abandoning your trolley of food. A couple of store workers come over and when you tell them about your situation offer to take you for a cup of tea. They tell you that you are too old for children or that your children are grown up. How would that feel? Would you be happy to do that? How would you respond?

What is the source of your distress here? Is it the loss of the children, the unfamiliar environment or the response of the staff? Perhaps it is all of these?

Now consider a care setting where a similar experience can be even more distressing.

You should try here to transfer some of the feelings you might have had in the supermarket exercise to how a person in a care setting might experience. The person with dementia may be ill, have pain, this is compounded by being in an unfamiliar place with strange sounds and many people who they do not know. These people also try to do things to them that may be unwelcome such as personal care. Often the concerns they try to express by asking to go home, worrying about what is happening at home and refusing to accept care can be easily understood if we put ourselves in their shoes.