90 going on 3 … what does that mean?
There is a fine line for caregivers to take as their loved one’s dementia progresses. To honor and respect the person you want to treat them as an adult, capable of making decisions for themselves. Reality often comes to bite you when you realize their choices aren’t best decisions for their safety and welfare. You honestly can’t allow them to go out in a snowstorm in shorts and a t-shirt, nor is eating candy for every meal a good option.
So, in reality what 90 going on 3 means is you have an adult (parent, grandparent, spouse …) who because of their disease now has the reasoning capacity of a 3 year old.
How do you continue to honor and respect your loved one, keep them safe, and allow them to have a say in their daily life?
The first thing is to give them simple choices and keep it to a minimum of 2 (maybe 3) options to choose from. By giving them completely open options you will overwhelm them and will not get a positive outcome.
Pick out clothes that are weather appropriate – grab two tops of different colors and ask which they’d prefer.
Ask them if they’d prefer ham or turkey on their sandwich. Or if they’d prefer green beans or peas with the meatloaf.
Would they prefer milk or tea?
Would they like to visit a park or a go listen to a concert?
Sometimes when trying to give my grandpa a choice of restaurant I would tell him “We can go to X – they have (a dish he liked at X) or we can go to Y – they have (a dish he liked at Y)”.
If we were going to a restaurant he’d never eaten at (or hadn’t been to in a long time), he would look at the huge menus and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. He would get so overwhelmed that he’d simply order whatever I ordered – even if it wasn’t something he liked. I would usually take the menu and start by finding the drinks and ask him if he wanted something hot or cold to drink. We would start there. Then I would ask him if he was in the mood for fish, poultry or beef. Then I would help him narrow down the menu to a couple of selections. Once we got to that point he would be able to make his decision about what he wanted to eat.
Keep these to things that are immediately relevant, they won’t necessarily remember their choices hours later. (E.g.: They won’t remember in the morning that the night before they wanted to wear a blue shirt.)
Now you are allowing your loved one some control over their daily life AND keeping them safe. By following this technique you will usually find that there are fewer conflicts.