Navigating Life's Surprises

One, two, three-SURPRISE! Have you ever been surprised?  In one way or another, we have all been surprised. It may not have been a fun party with all of our friends; instead maybe it was a surprise diagnosis, bad news or unwanted life change. How we react to and also help those with memory loss deal with life’s surprises often relies on the same choice-a positive, kind attitude.

Do you know someone who is perpetually positive? They seem to ooze happiness, no matter the situation. Many just exude a quiet confidence that all will be ok even when the worst happens. FYI-this isn’t me. My natural tendency is to worry, try to quickly fix the problem, and then worry some more about the future. But I also know this isn’t a helpful or healthy way to live. So I try to catch these tendencies when they arise and shift to a more positive, kind approach. Some days this works better than others.

Alternatively, happy surprises can also create worry or a negative reaction in some. If it’s not what was planned, even positive surprises can create strife, especially for those with memory issues. Change becomes more difficult as we age and it’s incredibly hard for a person experiencing memory problems. Any shift in the routine, especially a sudden or surprise change can cause major problems for one with dementia or memory loss. Bad reactions, acting out, and increased confusion can all be effects from simple changes or surprises.

For all of us, surprises are just that–a surprise. Most of us can take in the new situation quickly, adjust and even shift our reactions as I try to do. But for someone with memory issues, this either isn’t possible or takes much, much longer. Caregivers and loved ones may not understand and rush the process. This will only create more stress and often unwanted behaviors.  The quick decision making process we do (and often take for granted) isn’t possible for those with dementia. They react badly to surprises because they cannot comprehend what’s happening or communicate their feelings well.

So how can we help both ourselves and those with memory issues deal with the inevitable surprises of life? By adjusting our own attitudes. Instead of reacting negatively to either the surprise or a bad reaction from someone with memory loss, let’s shift our own focus toward being more kind and positive.

Here a few suggestions on how to help ourselves and those with memory loss deal with surprises of life:

  • Shift our outlook to more positive and/or gently help others to do this as well.
  • Minimize surprises for someone with memory loss by implementing slowly or prepping for the change as far in advance as possible.
  • Be patient with ourselves and others when surprises come. Change isn’t always easy. Frequent reminders about the change for those with memory loss and staying positive are integral to navigating them well. Deep breaths go a long way here.
  • Manage any bad reactions with love and kindness. Whether it’s our own or others’, sometimes responses aren’t always positive. For someone with memory loss, their bad reactions are usually the only way they can respond. Asking ourselves how we can adjust things with a loving, kind approach is what’s needed.

Surprises are a part of life. How we react to them and also help those with memory issues deal with them is important. Navigating life’s surprises with positivism, love, and kindness will not only help us adapt to those surprises, but could also assist us all to make more memorable moments.

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