Self concept defines how you think or feel about yourself. Basically, self concept is a determining factor in what you believe you can do; and, what you believe you can't do.
The concept of self is determined by our experiences.
In the case of Alzheimer's caregiving it is very difficult to be positive because at the outset few of us have any concept of what to do.
Take me for example. When asked, I tell people you could put everything I knew about Alzheimer's in a "thimble" when it first came a knocking on the door with Dotty.
I didn't know what to do, and back in 2003 there wasn't much of what I could describe as help, insight, or advice available.
Now in 2012, there is a lot more information available, a lot more sharing on the Internet, and if the typical caregiver hunts long and hard with a positive attitude they can find the information they need.
Not easy to find, but possible to find.
On Saturday I went to Walmart. One of the things on my list to buy was spiral notebooks, copybooks. Those of you that have been here for a while know that I use a lot of spiral notebooks and newspaper print pads (the da Vinci pad).
Lo and behold, spiral notebooks were on sale for 17 cents each. Wozo edwards, 17 cents each. You can't even buy a piece of penny candy anymore for less than a quarter.
I bought what could end up being a two year supply of notebooks for $1.70. It was a no sales tax day for school supplies here in Florida.
Yesterday, while I was telling someone about my spiral notebook good fortune I segwayed into Dotty land, and began recounted my long fascinating and wonderful story about Dotty and the motorized shopping carts at Walmart.
For more than a year when I suggested to Dotty that she get into the motorized shopping cart and follow me around Walmart she would always say, NO.
Finally, Dotty could no longer walk far enough to follow me around Walmart. I had three options: leave her in the car, bring her into the store and sit her down on a bench, or get her to follow me around in the motorized shopping cart.
One day I was filled with determination when Dotty said NO. I went into the store, jumped on the motorized cart, drove it outside and right up to the door of our car. I opened the car door and said, "come old girl time to drive the car". Dotty got up and I helped her into the cart.
Wait a minute. I didn't think about it at the time but did Dotty get in because I said, "time to drive the car." I don't know, but most likely it helped.
I gave Dotty some quick instructions on how to drive the cart and then, uh oh. I was filled with an immediate feeling of trepidation. I felt nervous, what if she can't do it.
Funny how the brain will do anything it can do to deter you from doing something. The brain will try to trick you every time when it comes to Alzheimer's care.
Needless to say, Dotty was a champion driver from day one. Never hit anything, never got stuck, drove the cart and followed me around.
One night Dotty was talking to my sister Joanne and Joanne asked, "what did you do today." Dotty asked me, "what did we do"? I responded we went to Walmart and you drove the cart all around the store while we shopped.
I could never had expected what happened next.
Dotty became very animated and started telling Joanne about how "good" she drove the cart around the store. Dotty was smiling, laughing, and really proud of herself.
As I sit here thinking about this story and episode last night I wondered, did activities like driving the cart help improve Dotty's self concept?
Did activities like this one change Dotty's perception of herself?
Did activities like this one help Dotty develop of positive mental attitude?
Yes, they did.
This explains in part why Dotty looked and sounded so much better in years four through 8, then she did in years one through four.
This is my belief.
Believe in yourself, believe in the person who is deeply forgetful.
Don't worry about what other people will think. Don't worry about an occasional failure, or set back. Be optimistic in all you do, not pessimistic.
Develop your own new positive Alzheimer's care concept. Watch this new found attitude spill over on to your loved one who is living with Alzheimer's or a related dementia.
Remind them how to do things, let them do things, and watch as their self esteem grows and your day and life improves.
Pretty simple equation for success if you ask me.
I figured this one out for YOU.
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 312,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room