I came across something called Validation Therapy that is directed at working with elderly patients with Alzheimer's and dementia-like symptoms.
Principles of Validation Therapy*
All people are unique and must be treated as individuals.
All people are valuable, no matter how disoriented they are.
There is a reason behind the behavior of disoriented old-old people.
Behavior in old-old age is not merely a function of anatomic changes in the brain, but reflects a combination of physical, social and psychological changes that take place over the lifespan.
Old-old people cannot be forced to change their behaviors. Behaviors can be changed only if the person wants to change them.
Old-old people must be accepted nonjudgmentally.
Particular life tasks are associated with each stage of life. Failure to complete a task at the appropriate stage of life may lead to psychological problems.
When more recent memory fails, older adults try to restore balance, in their lives by retrieving earlier memories. When eyesight fails, they use the mind's eye to see. When hearing goes, they listen to sounds from the past.
Painful feelings that are expressed, acknowledged, and Validated by a trusted listener will diminish. Painful feelings that are ignored or suppressed will gain strength.
Empathy builds trust, reduces anxiety, and restores dignity.
*from The Validation Breakthrough: Simple Techniques for Communicating with People with Alzheimer's-Type Dementia, Naomi Feil (1993)
I think particularly 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, and 10 are applicable to all relationships, not just the elderly with dementia-like symptoms.
Here is a video of Validation Therapy in action:
"Grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that one is me."
Fiddler, thanks for sharing that, it was beautiful. Just watching them brought me back in the moment with my grandma when I was little. She was so patient like the speaker. What a gift. She later developed Alzheimer's, and we came to a loss of how to connect with her. How beautiful to find there are ways to connect with folks at this stage, too.
"I have everything I need." and "I am exactly where I am supposed to be." ~Louise Hays