As any caregiver can attest to, caring for someone with dementia has its challenges. This is in part because dementia affects the brain. What used to be healthy brain cells begin to degenerate and die. Because of this, dementia interferes with one’s ability to think, remember, and even reason like they used to. Logical things just don’t make sense for one with dementia.
In addition, dementia affects one’s behavior, making it difficult to communicate and help someone suffering from it. Language skills, problem-solving, self-management, and focusing become increasingly hard for someone with dementia. Some cannot control their emotions, and may even experience personality changes.
Studies showed that in 2015, 46 million people were affected by dementia globally. And while there is no cure yet for this disease, there are some great ways to help you care for your loved one with dementia.
Don’t take things personally.
Those with dementia may experience frustration, anger, or other feelings of unhappiness. It’s important to understand they are most likely not upset with you, but rather with how the disease is affecting them and their environment.
Do identify the cause of their behavior
Sudden outbursts and other forms of aggression may occur. However, studies show that aggression is usually triggered by something else—often physical discomfort, fear of something, or environmental factors like being in an unfamiliar situation or lack of communication. Find what’s troubling your loved to overcome these negative behaviors.
Don’t engage in arguments
One of the worst things one can do is to fight someone with dementia. Because their reasoning is affected by the disease, it’s pointless to argue with them. It won’t go anywhere except for leaving you both unhappy. You cannot reason with some fighting dementia. Instead, focus on their feelings and redirect them.
Don’t try to control their behavior.
Trying to control someone’s behavior will only increase the struggle. However, you can still be accommodating. For example, if your loved one insists on sleeping on the floor, let him–just place a mattress on the floor to make him more comfortable.
Don’t ask “remember when” questions
As mentioned earlier, dementia affects one’s brain and memory. By asking “remember when….” questions, you only cause hurt and additional confusion. The fact is, they most likely don’t remember the event. By continuing to ask these types of questions, they may feel guilty and anxiety over not being able to remember. Instead, ask simple, answerable questions, one at a time. Answers with “yes” or “no” often work best.
Do review happy memories and familiar hobbies
The good thing about dementia, however, is that most people suffering from it still have great long term memory. It’s the short term memory that’s most affected. Something that happened 30 years ago may be a very vivid memory for one with dementia, but something that occurred 30 minutes prior may be a complete loss. Show your loved one photos and other tangible reminders with simple explanations to help them reminisce fun past memories as this information is likely to be retained. Avoid asking specific questions from more current times.
Don’t set a negative tone
For optimal communication, you should have a good attitude. The tone of your voice, the expressions on your face, and even your body language can show someone how you’re feeling, and even rub off on that person. If you want good interaction and communication, make sure your attitude expresses that.
Do encourage and reassure
Because those with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves, they need positive encouragement and reassurance to help minimize frustration and embarrassment. Refrain from trying to convince them they are wrong. Instead, concentrate on their feelings and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort and support. A simple touch, hug, holding hands, or even praise will often get the person to respond when all else fails.
Do be patient
It can be hard to remain calm when someone is yelling at you because you can’t understand their needs. However, try to be patient and look for nonverbal cues and body language that can help you respond appropriately. Listen to them and guide them. You may even suggest words to help them clarify what they need.
Do keep them comfortable
Especially if your loved one no longer lives at his/ her home, keeping familiar objects around them can help them feel comfortable. Allow them to do things that make them happy–fun hobbies they enjoy, eating a favorite snack, or even doing an easy craft.
Do redirect their attention
Sometimes using their disease can work to your advantage. Often by redirecting them to something else, they will forget what they were so upset about in the first place. Try changing the subject or changing their environment. Talk about something else, or go outside.
Do take notes on what works best for them
Every time you try something that they willingly or easily do, take note of it to help them with other daily activities. Use these notes to your advantage when they are more hesitant to try something else. Use what works best for them.
Do limit distractions and noise.
Because staying focused can be a real struggle for those with dementia, eliminate or try to limit those distractions. Close the curtains, reduce background noise, and look at your loved one in the eyes. A peaceful and quiet environment can allow you to more effectively communicate with your loved one.
As you apply these tips, we hope you’ll be able to communicate and care for your loved one with dementia more effectively. Contact us at PrimRose to see how our experienced team of professionals can better assist you and your loved one.