The unfortunate truth with many people living with dementia is that they will hit patches of depression over their condition from time to time. It is sad to see, but sometimes they will have days where the fog lifts and they realize that everything is not alright, and that takes a heavy emotional toll.
Knowing how to cheer up your loved one in times like these will be a godsend, so we have a few strategies to help you.
Change The Subject
If your loved one is dwelling on a specific subject that is depressing them, try changing the subject. For example, if they are sad about the fact that they look old or have decreased mobility, change the subject to something lighter.
The go to that we like is to use something humorous to change their state of mind. When they complain about looking old, show them how old you look by pointing out specific “faults” like laugh lines or crow’s-feet and how someone called you old the other day.
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If they are complaining about being weak, tell them about a spectacular fall you took or mention something you clumsy you did. By shifting the focus onto you, you will be able to change the topic and move on to happier subjects more easily.
Relate To Them
An “I’m sorry. That’s really tough, but…” can go a really long way when used correctly. It shows that you empathize, and sometimes all a person needs is to feel heard. It’s always good to end the train of thought on a positive note. One that we like to use is, “but you’re still here, and I’m thankful for that every day.”
Ending an empathetic statement with a positive like “and we’re lucky to have you!” can help bring their self-esteem up. Often, the main thing dragging them down into depression is the aging process. Becoming weaker both physically and mentally is a hard thing to cope with. By being a beacon of positivity, you can bring them out of a depression little by little.
We touched on this earlier, but if you’re funny, use this to your full advantage. Humor heals, look at the Patch Adams approach to life. He was able to make terminally ill patients enjoy life and even heal when no one thought it was possible.
Having the right outlook on life can do wonders for the body, and the right perspective is definitely not one that involves depression. Keeping people with dementia happy can extend their life and make the day to day more liveable. These are two things that any child of a person living with dementia wants!
Change The Setting
Sometimes you just need to get away, think about how refreshing a vacation can be for your mind and health! You don’t have to go on an elaborate tri to have a similar effect on depression. Routine is good, but it can become confining after prolonged periods.
If you aren’t already going out to parks, malls, or restaurants a few times a week, give it a shot. Shaking up the daily routine by getting some fresh air or physical activity can actually put a dent in a person with dementia’s depression.
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Believe it or not, the same thing day in and day out can actually cause the depression. Even if they don’t remember the trip as soon as you get home, the excitement of the outing will have lasting effects on a chemical level. The trip will alter the ratios of Oxytocin, Endorphins, Serotonin, and Dopamine in the body.
These chemicals are both a reaction to happiness and a cause of happiness. By doing something new, the levels of these in the body will change, and the effects could be felt for hours after the outing, even if the memory of it has disappeared long before.
Realize That This Will Pass
Sometimes you just can’t get them out of a funk, even if you use all of our previous tips in combination. The good news is that these moods will come and go. Realizing that this won’t be forever will help you cheer up.
Surprisingly, when you are actually happy, their mood can start to lighten up as well. The forced happiness that you put on your face to deal with the situation isn’t going to cut it, after all, they have several years more experience in spotting fake dispositions.
Allow yourself to be cheered up by the fact that this will pass, and they may just go along on the cheerful ride you’re taking. If they don’t, at the very least you’ll be in a better place mentally to give the other strategies another go at it.
Sometimes, lots of activity can tire them out, and a good night’s sleep can be all you need to reset them and make the depression a thing of the past.
If you feel like you need more help caring for your loved one with dementia, give us a call at (714) 289-7220, or you can email us here!