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Coping with Dementia: The Upside of Adversity

By Debbie Selsalvage Posted on May 13, 2020

Many years ago, I told someone I had a problem, and she said, “No, you have an opportunity.”  I thought this was just a silly platitude, but over the years, I began to understand what she meant.  Every event has positive and negative aspects, and it is we who choose which way we are going to look at it.

Social distancing during the Covid-19 crisis simply destroyed my routine way of doing things when every workshop, speaking engagement, and support group from early March through mid-May was canceled.  It happened to all of us.

My partner Ed and I used up nearly two weeks doing projects around the house. Then we realized we really needed to get back to work. 

From left to right are Debbie Selsavage, trainer and President of Coping with Dementia, and Friends of Citrus employees Heather Whitbeck, Ken Ricks, Mark Wright, Jack Millian, Eric Carpenter, Kristen Floto, Cynthia Poole, and Maryrose Reynolds at a training program last year.

Getting back to Work with a New Opportunity

We started looking for the opportunity in our problem and realized we needed to find a different way of working with our dementia care partners.  I have always resisted video technology for educating and consulting because it seemed so distant and impersonal, but now it seemed to be the only option.

We were finally kicked into action when my friend Linda Burhans, creator and host of the Connecting Caregivers Radio Show, called and asked, “Have you ever done your support groups on line?”  She too was looking for the opportunity in her problem, which was similar to ours.

Not only did Linda’s call help me decide to take the on-line plunge, but we also decided to team up as co-facilitators on a series of on-line support groups using the Zoom internet platform.  

Getting back to work looked very different for Coping with Dementia.
Image by Jagrit Parajuli from Pixabay

Online Dementia Caregiver support meetings reaching all the way to Canada

What an eye-opener this experience has been!  It is definitely different from meeting with a group of people in a room, but that “distance” and “impersonal” quality I was so concerned about has just not happened. 

Our first online support groups have been warm, meaningful, fun, and even joyful!

And they have provided outreach and connection that were previously not possible.  For example, the first meeting Linda and I facilitated had our usual core of central Florida care partners, but people also joined us from Washington state, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada!   

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Trying Something New provided New Opportunities

Ironically, all I needed to discover this new opportunity was to take the advice I give care partners every day of the week.  When they struggle with loved ones whose personalities and behaviors are changing due to dementia, I often say, “You have to try something!  Your situation has changed.  Your old responses and behaviors will no longer work.  Try something new!”

E-mail or call me to learn about how to join our online dementia care partner support groups.  They’re free!

Debbie Selsavage is a Certified Trainer and Consultant in the Positive Approach to Care and a Certified Dementia Practitioner.  She authors a monthly column to assist caregivers in coping with Dementia. Her company, Coping with Dementia LLC is dedicated to making life better for individuals living with dementia.  Contact Debbie at [email protected].


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