Tales of a Geriatrician

Caring for Your Loved One with GRACE

When caring for a loved one with a memory impairment or dementia, it is important to remember the 5 characteristics of GRACE .”

During  my medical residency, I had the opportunity to learn from many brilliant scholars.  One of these mentors gave me this advice, “When you complete a consultation on a patient, limit your recommendations to five.  It is just too difficult for the doctor reading the consultation to follow more than 5 recommendations at one time.  If you wish, come back tomorrow with 5 more recommendations.” I have tried to adhere to this rule of 5 throughout my career. 

“What about other groupings of 5”, I wondered?  My jobs in life are grouped in 5. I am a: family member, friend, student, teacher, and doctor.  Exercises I perform which I include strength training, cardio, individual sport (golf), group sport (basketball), eastern techniques (Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation) are also grouped in 5.   I just love list of 5s, and I can almost always remember 5 things!

Recently I started to organize my thinking using the 5 letter acronym GRACE.  It seems to me that many things I encounter every day can be thought of and organized using this acronym: G stand for Goals, R for Roots or DNA, A for Attitude, C for Companionship and E for Environment. 

I have observed from my patients who have lived happy, healthy, and long lives that the traits of GRACE had been incorporated into their lives. 

G-having Goals or a purpose in life leads to greater satisfaction and fulfillment.

R-knowing your Roots or DNA is critical to understanding your genetic makeup and what risks or benefit you can derive from your heredity. 

A-having a positive attitude and being grateful for what you have leads to greater enjoyment and experiences in life. 

C-companionship and connections to others is a critical factor in forming supportive and loving relationships.

E– Environment is what you do to live a healthier life, such as eating, exercising, sleeping and listening to your physician’s advice. 

GRACE can play an important role in caring for a loved one especially someone who has memory impairment or Dementia.  Having clearly defined Goals or a purpose for each day provides much needed structure, an essential component for an individual who is bombarded with distractions daily.  Roots, in this case family structure or family tree, denotes  knowing who your family is,  and that you can count on them to assist and provide much needed respite and support.  Family can also be loosely interpreted to include local friends and your support system as well.   Having a positive Attitude is essential in surviving the marathon of living and sustaining a loved one with Dementia.  Included within the trait of attitude is gratitude since  without it we become less human.  Companionship and Connection with our loved one brings us back to the depth of our love within the relationship, and it becomes the glue that holds us together through difficult times.  Connections within our community enable us to seek and obtain much needed physical and emotional support.   Keeping the Environment safe and uncluttered helps prevent injuries and reduces distractions both of which are detrimental to the individual with dementia.  Providing a healthy environment includes a healthy lower carbohydrate diet, physical activity/exercise, and good sleep habits. 

It is important to remember the 5 characteristics of GRACE when caring for a loved one with memory impairment or dementia.   Whether it is in the early stages and in a home environment, or in the later stages where the loved one resides in an assisted living facility or nursing home, they all need a little GRACE.

What thoughts do you have to share about caring for your loved one with GRACE? I would love to hear from you!

Here’s to a long and healthy life.

David Bernstein MD

Physician-Author-Public Speaker




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