Following a tour of The Club, Abe’s Garden’s adult day program, I often hear, “Wow, this would be great for my dad, but he refuses to try anything new. How do I get him to agree to try it?” This question reflects the difficulty many caregivers have in trying to meet their loved one’s needs.
There is no one answer to the question of getting buy-in as there are many reasons for the refusal. A good rule of thumb for reaching acceptance is to hypothesize about why they are reluctant and using this to brainstorm various approaches.
People living with dementia are understandably uncomfortable in new environments. They may be fearful of looking bad or feeling lost. Others are afraid they are being abandoned in this new place. They will prefer to stay in a place they know, surrounded by familiar people and furnishings, and with a predictable daily routine. For many, this is what keeps them functioning at their highest level. It can be very difficult to be in a new environment, with new people, and no sense of what comes next.
- If your loved one is aware of their memory loss, discuss how research suggests that it’s important to stay engaged in activities that support brain health. This includes social interaction, exercise, stimulating conversation, brain games, and learning new skills. Ask your loved one if they are willing to do whatever they can to try and keep their brain healthy. Even being in a new situation is great exercise for their brain.
- If your loved one thrives on being of service to others or needs to feel a sense of purpose, then it may help to invite them to participate with others in need of new friends. Life engagement at Abe’s Garden focuses on purposeful and meaningful programming. For example, the Garden Club tends to the plants in the community, arranges flowers for the dining room tables, and helps plant, water, and harvest our outdoor gardens.
- If you sense your loved one has a fear of being abandoned, then a transition plan can be developed in which your loved one is able to come for gradually longer periods of time each day to support the development of familiarity and routine within the environment and program. Also, it will help to provide engagements guaranteeing enjoyment, as well as success using their “Life Story” (information gathered from families about their history, interests, and preferences).
The team will support you in identifying and addressing the obstacles to create a smoother transition into The Club at Abe’s Garden.