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It’ll Be Different This Time 😉


For many people, it doesn’t officially feel like the new year until the first Monday in January, when it’s time to go back to work and hop on board the diet that’s really, truly going to work this time.


It’s going to work this time, this year, because this time, this year, is going to be different. 


Yada yada yada, blah blah blah.


You already know how that story goes. You may have already lived that story. After 2020, what we all know for sure is that even with the best of intentions, sometimes things happen that are just beyond our control.


So this year, I’m asking you to participate in a different story: let’s get FAT in the new year! 


Creating and living this new story doesn’t have anything at all to do with what or how much you eat or how you look. But it will almost certainly make you feel better. Because in this different story, what I’m talking about is shining a light on you as a dementia care partner and how you think about that role.


Old School vs Conscious Design


Too often, dementia care partners feel so suddenly thrust into that role that they haven’t had a chance to consciously design it. They may know “old school” folks who think even the phrase conscious design is ridiculous, let alone the concept. Old schoolers are typically task-oriented workhorses. They excel at denying or stuffing their feelings, focusing only on the task at hand.


There’s much to admire about old schoolers. They feel a sense of duty and responsibility, so they move forward on that basis. They deal with each new challenge as it arises. Because they rarely lose focus, they rarely let others down. They pretty much always get the job done, even if (when!) it’s at great personal cost. 


The problem with the old school mindset is just what it sounds like: it doesn’t take into account the very real human cost and it’s almost entirely devoid of joy. And if The Crown has taught us anything, it’s that devotion to duty to the exclusion of joy eventually blows up in everyone’s face.


It’s one thing to keep your own nose down and go through life sacrificing joy at the expense of “getting it done.” It’s something else entirely to take a person living with dementia on the ride, too.


People living with dementia have brains that are under constant attack, sustaining irreversible damage. Their brains need joy to stay as healthy as possible under such an attack. Your brain needs joy, too, as we discuss in 8 Ways to Start Reducing Your Chances of Developing Dementia.


What If You Got FAT?


So, what would it look like if you decided to start consciously designing your dementia care partner experience?


A client whose family has traveled extensively throughout the world doing humanitarian work told me they always arrived at a new location with the motto, “Let’s get FAT: flexible, adaptable, trainable.” When things went sideways–as things inevitably do at some point–they’d remind each other to “stay FAT.” 


If that philosophy works in under-developed places challenged with providing basic resources and infrastructure, I’m confident it can work for our purposes too.


Getting and staying FAT for dementia care partners has three parts that might look something like this:


    • Be flexible. Let it ride when things don’t go how you think they will (or think they should). 


    • Be adaptable. Because you’re flexible, you’re open to figuring out what doesn’t work with your person. There’s no arguing, just adaptability to what is. 


    • Be trainable. If you’re flexible and adaptable, that almost certainly means you’re willing to learn. You’re trainable and open to better, more effective ways of managing often tricky situations. 


But What About…


In everyday life, that might mean if your person absolutely positively won’t get in a shower, there’s no going old school. That looks like I’m getting them in the shower whatever it takes because it needs done! 


No, instead you provide a warm, soapy washcloth and lots of gentle encouragement. Or you use some no-rinse soap and no-rinse shampoo and your person is clean without any water drama. (Yay!)


Or maybe you learn other techniques that just hadn’t ever occurred to you before. Possibly you try all those things. Just know some days certain things will work, and other days nothing will work. Because that’s how it goes when dementia is involved.


Getting FAT gives you some space to figure out what you want your dementia care partner experience to look and feel like. Keep in mind there are at least two of you who’ll be living it. 


Staying FAT acknowledges dementia has multiple stages with nuances within each. Once you have your arms around one thing, something else pops up that requires figuring out. That’s reality, but getting and staying FAT allows you to navigate it all with grace. And that seems like a great plan for the new year.



Christy Turner is a speaker and consultant, host of The Alzheimer’s Podcast, founder of, and creator of many popular online trainings for family care partners. She’s enjoyed the privilege of working with people living with dementia and their families (including multiple experiences in her own family) for twenty years now.