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Detached Caring, Part 1

This is a continuation of an excerpt from Susan McCurry’s book, When A Family Member Has Dementia.

As I mentioned, I would have benefited greatly from just being aware of even a fraction of one of her chapters.  I was not. Therefore, I didn’t do so hot in caring for Mom on a lot of levels.  Situations were more upsetting and stressful because I didn’t know…well – anything or, actually, not very much of anything.

Having this book, and others like it as a great go-to resource, is truly more valuable than certainly my words can ever say.  The full details of the book are listed at the end of this blog.

Susan McCurry writes:

It is possible to be detached in a caring and therapeutic way only if you are really listening to the other person.  Dr. Linda Teri has said, “Listen with respect; comfort and redirect,” -as a way of helping caregivers think about effective communication.  Listening with respect means keeping quiet, withholding our own reactions long enough for the other person to be heard.  It means trying to hear what the person is really feeling underneath what they are saying. 

When a person with dementia has an angry outburst over being asked to take medication, you may find it helpful to put yourself in their shoes.  Perhaps they are tired of always being told what to do, or annoyed at the tone of voice, or the way you asked.  Maybe they are fearful because they don’t really understand what the medications are for, or is mad at being interrupted from a nap.  If you can figure out what underlies your loved one’s words and actions, and can respond to those feelings with comfort and reassurance instead of taking personally what was said, THAT is caring detachment at its best.

What Is True For Me:  When Mom quipped at my simple question of whether or not she paid a bill, I learned over time to let her rant and get angry.  As apposed to Susan McCurry’s example, Mom never had a problem taking medication, but she was defensive about bill paying because she knew on some level she could no longer handle it.  She could not discern the mail anymore, i.e., what to throw away, what to keep, what needed to be paid, then pay it.  After she ranted and got angry and said her peace, I’d say, “Hey Mamo, I have to do my bills when I get home.  Help me gear up here.  Here, let’s just quickly go through yours and decide which ones to send to Santa?”  That got her laughing.  And while she was laughing, I’d lead her into her office saying, “Come ON!! It’ll be fun!  …like any other colonoscopy!”

This is an example of “Listen with respect; comfort and redirect.” I learned that my go-to is humor and fortunately, Mom responds to mine.

Take what you can from these examples, tweak it, and make it your own.    

*This book, When A Family Member Has Dementia, by Susan McCurry, can be found in the Resource section of this Website, or you can go to

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