Perhaps one of the most difficult discussions I facilitate while educating families and friends of individuals living with dementia, is the shifting roles and responsibilities segment.
Let’s backtrack for a moment.
When individuals first meet; relationships develop with a new and then learned understanding of evolving responsibilities, and roles. As they grow into a couple there is a nurturing of shared expectations and the potential exists to work in partnership.
When one member of a couple is living with dementia, there comes a time when certain roles and responsibilities must be modified and then relinquished to their partner. This becomes a delicate balancing act as often the recipient of the new chores has not acquired the needed skill set or knowledge to readily assume additional responsibilities. (Or maybe they are just overwhelmed with the sense of change).
In order to develop a current and future strategy to assist with the assumption of new responsibilities, an excellent idea is to create a household binder with monthly inserts. Start recording maintenance duties and other tasks that are reoccurring, with accompanying tips, contacts and information. Early proactive preparation can reduce future stress.
Examples of inserts
Think “furnace” Slip a reminder under the appropriate months when the filter needs changing as well as any other related routine maintenance.
Think “cistern” If you are a country dweller, how often do you clean your cistern? If this chore is done annually, pick a month and place the information under the appropriate tab so the job is completed. Make sure the contractor’s name and number is listed.
Think “insurance policies” Note in your binder when insurance policies are up for renewal. List the names and contacts of the appropriate insurance companies.
Although a simple suggestion, it is amazing how wonderful this reference becomes as time passes and a partner’s memory impacts their ability to problem solve former responsibilities.
During the course of our discussion about roles and responsibilities, I ask the attendees to make a list of newly acquired duties that could be eliminated or downloaded to a willing family member or friend. Many people have trouble relinquishing responsibilities, but with coaxing most are able to list at least 3 trade offs that they can live without.
But how do we mentally release these duties?
I ask the audience to follow my demonstration by folding their list in half. Then, we press down the top two corners and fold opposite sides at the midpoint.
They quizzically look at me as the process continues and they soon recognize that they are holding a paper airplane. I love to enter the audience with my plane and encourage all on the count of three to throw those duties metaphorically to the wind.
Together we are taking the first step to emotionally releasing the burden of those stressors that will hopefully no longer encumber them.
Planes whizz past my head and the room is filled with laughter. Sending our stress to the universe is a welcome reprieve after a difficult discussion.