Sometimes as caregivers, we make mistakes and need to apologize. Sometimes as caregivers, we don’t make mistakes, but we still need to apologize.
We must look at situations from the point of view of the person living with dementia to understand when and where to use the phrase “I’m sorry”, to keep the relationship with your loved one strong and valuable. According to “Teepa Snow’s Five I’m sorry” phrases, you should be mindful of when to use. Remember Teepa Snow is a dementia training specialist and provides vital information and insight to those families living with dementia. So let’s get started! I will share thoughts of the care recipient and then thoughts that the caregiver may have during the course of assistance. Then I will give a suggestion as to what phrase you may want to consider!
When the person living with dementia is feeling that the caregiver is being mean, frustrating, intrusive and bossy, they will not cooperate. The caregiver is trying to get the person living with dementia to see that they want to help them and that what they are doing is not ok or safe. You may want to use the phrase, “I’m sorry, I was trying to help.”
When the person living with dementia, feels that the caregiver made them feel stupid, and has made them feel they no longer can manage their life, it is frustrating. The person living with dementia may feel they do not deserve to be treated like this. The person living with dementia may feel the caregiver has never treated them like this before, the person living with dementia may feel or think; I was the boss and the leader before.
I know what I am doing and I am a smart and capable adult. Now while these thought are going on with the person living with dementia the caregiver may have thoughts such as, they see that their loved one is behaving like a child, and that their loved one is being irresponsible. The caregiver will have thoughts of their loved one is not as capable as they once were. The caregiver thoughts are; why can’t my loved one see that it is not safe for them to manage their life, their house, drive, manage money, medications, health, bathing, walking, eating, etc….on their own? The caregiver feels, they are really scared of these changes. You may use the phrase, “I’m sorry, I had no right to make you feel that way.”
When the person living with dementia becomes angry, frustrated, embarrassed, sad, etc… about how the caregiver is treating them, they do not like the way the caregiver is making them feel. The caregiver may be feeling very frustrated because they are only trying to help their loved one and their loved one is getting very upset, yelling, crying or just ignoring them and the caregiver feels they did not do anything to cause their loved one to be like this. You may want to use the phrase, “I’m sorry, I made you angry.”
When the person living with dementia has memories and beliefs about what happened or has transpired, they may feel their caregiver does not believe them and may feel no cares. The person with dementia may feel the caregiver ignores them and what they know is true! Now the caregiver is thinking, the reality is that it did not happen the way their loved one thinks it did. The caregiver knows their loved one is wrong! It their loved one would just listen to them and trust them or think logically about it, their loved one would get it! The caregiver thinks and feels they are just trying to help the person living with dementia, understand why they are wrong. You may use the phrase, “I’m sorry, that should not have happened.”
When the person living with dementia feels people are trying to tell them what to do and how to do it, and they do not have the right to do this. When the caregiver thinks they know better than I do, what I need and what I should do. The person living with dementia, think people or their caregiver are trying to take away their freedom and rob them of who they have always been, for no good reason. The person living with dementia thinks they do not have a problem. The caregiver may be feeling they are only trying to help their loved one stay safe and keep out of trouble, and only trying to help take care of their loved one’s wealth, health or life. The caregiver may feel they have to get their loved one to recognize the need for a change and feel they have to get their loved one to do it whether their loved one likes or not! You may use the phrase, “I’m sorry this is hard, I hate this for you.”
These five “I’m sorry” phrases will be helpful in your journey as the caregiver. These five phrase were provided by Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care TM. Remember when dealing with emotion ………. “I’m sorry, I was trying to help.” When dealing with intellectual capacity ……… “I’m sorry, I had no right to make you feel that way.” When dealing with different experiences ……. “I’m sorry, that should not have happened.” When dealing with change …. “I’m sorry this is hard, I hate this for you.”
Remember we have talked about Dementia is an umbrella term and under this umbrella are 85-90 different conditions of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the number one condition of dementia. Remember a person living with dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, the family lives with the disease as well. Keep in your caregiver’s tool box those three deep breathes, you will need to take them often!!
I encourage you to come and join us on the second Tuesday of each month for our “Dementia Education and Alzheimer’s Support Group Meeting.” We start here at the Sampson County Department of Aging at 2 p.m. Hope you have a “Best Day Ever!”
Lesia Henderson is the aging specialist for the Sampson County Department of Aging.