I recently spoke to a group of caregivers both family and professional on the topic of “Letting Go and Letting Do.” My aim was to help caregivers see the value of empowering the person(s) with whom they are working instead of doing everything for them. This is especially important with dementia.

Think of what you’d feel like if someone took away your control of your life in ways that you knew that with a bit of help you could take charge of by yourself. Some of us would be saddened; others angered.

But this is exactly what happens when caregivers, seeking to be helpful, or in the service of saving time, disempower a person by taking over tasks that are now a bit harder to accomplish.

Acts of aggression are often caused by the person feeling that someone is taking away control. People need to feel in control of their life and their things. Let’s take dressing or bathing for example, two activities that usually take some thinking through, so the person may need more time to figure out the steps in order to be safe.

If a caregiver ‘takes over’ and decides what he will wear or when he will bathe, that act is taking over rather than aiding the person to do it themselves.

Giving him a choice of what he wants to wear (limiting the choice to two to make it easier for him), or asking if he wants to bathe before or after breakfast can eliminate resistance and give back a sense of control.

This letting go of control, and letting them do is respectful. All caregivers need to learn how to respectfully take charge of the care-giving but give as much control to the person as is safely possible.

Care-giving then becomes easier and more enjoyable for both the care-giver and the care-recipient. Personhood is preserved.