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Senior Assisted Living Blog

Forget Memory-- A Quality Book by Anne Davis Basting

- Tuesday, August 10, 2010

We want to share with you a quick summary of a book that dementia caregivers might find insightful.  The book, "Forget Memory" is focused on “Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia.” This is in fact the book's subbitle and central focus.  

Basting opines that while scientists try to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, caregivers should maintain faith in the scientific community but focus energy on the issues of today. She discusses the importance of living "in the moment".  In cases of extreme dementia,  memories are essentially not accessible and therefore it is the quality of the moment that defines quality of life.   Basting relates stories about caregiver fear of being a burdened, fear of the unknown, fear of being out of control, a fear of a loved one being violated or robbed, and a fear of a meaningless existence. Dementia sufferers at all levels can sense emotion.  Quality of life would have them stare into the face of confident caregivers, not fearful ones. The fear that one's loved one is indeed "senseless" contributes to a common (and quite natural defense) to dismiss the patient's behavioral ownership in lieu of blame on the disease itself. This is when caregiver fear becomes dangerous.  

There is a good excerpt from the beginning of the book: “That’s not him, it’s the disease”.  When we conclude that a man with dementia shouts out in anger solely because of his disease, it eliminates the caregiver from the burden of addressing the tougher issue of misbehavior.  It offers an excuse to give up and forgo the labor of an honestly assessment.  The danger of course is when the patient has very real issues (injury or need) and the caregiver simply dismisses the notion as non-existent, or even if it is deemed to be legitimate, the condition will not be remembered.   Dismissive behavior within caregivers affects dementia patients more than we realize.

Basting makes a great case that caregivers should "forget memory" as an excuse to dismiss the issues of the demented moment.  The issue of the moment may be all that they have, and the only thing that is truly real. Those moments define their cognizant existence and demand very real and non-dismissive attention.

 It is impossible to capture the genuine depth of Basting's reasoning. We believe that by reading her book, you will certainly achieve new enlightenment about the dreaded disease of dementia and empower you to be a more loving and understanding caregiver.