If someone you know is dealing with dementia, we know better than most that visiting with them can be a challenging experience, to say the least. However, it is important to remember that a person with dementia is dealing with a very difficult mental disorder. This makes it difficult for them to remember things, communicate with others, and even take care of themselves.
Over the years we have found certain behaviors that make helping a loved one with dementia a much more pleasant experience. By following these ten tips, we hope that you — our readers — will be able to help your loved ones without getting frustrated. More importantly, we want you to be able to spend time with your loved ones in a way that is positive for both parties.
If you know someone in Philadelphia who is experiencing difficulties with dementia and you are having a hard time giving them the help they need, Empire Home Health Care Inc is here to help! Contact us today to set up a personalized health plan for yourself or someone you love.
This tip is for even before you interact with a person with dementia. Imagine you are on the way to your uncle’s house, and you are brooding in the car about how much of a chore it is going to be to deal with him the whole way over. It’s almost certain that when you arrive, your body language and attitude will communicate how you are feeling. Even if you choose some very polite words to say, humans are very good at picking up on subliminal communication, even those with dementia.
In order to prevent this sort of interaction, we have have found that taking some time to think about being positive can have a profound effect. Just take a minute to decide that you are going to stay positive, even if it is a difficult interaction. Be aware of your body language, tone of voice, and use physical touch to pass on positive energy. This way, when your uncle opens the door, he will be able to see that you are excited to see him and he will be in a much better mood right off the bat.
Many elderly folks begin to lose their ability to hear as they age. Dementia can often compound this issue because it affects the person’s ability to understand who is talking to them and what they are saying. So when you are trying to speak to someone with dementia, it is a good idea to either lightly touch them or get directly in front of them and clearly, loudly, and politely say their name. This helps them understand that you are about to speak with them and it helps them to focus their attention.
Now that you have their attention, it is important to keep your communication with them simple. Do not ask overly complex questions. Try to stay away from using pronouns (he, she, they). Instead use the names of the people and places that you are referring to. It may sound a bit odd to speak this way, but it will help the person with dementia keep track of who and what you are talking about and keep them from getting confused. This in turn will save you from getting frustrated with them for not following along and having to repeat yourself.
That being said, no matter how plainly you speak, sometimes they will still get confused. That’s OK. Just remember to be patient and understanding. Sometimes it can help if you give them a moment before repeating yourself. That way they do not feel like they are being overwhelmed with information.
Ask questions that are easy to answer. For instance, instead of saying “What’s your favorite food for lunch?” you could instead try, “Would you like a turkey sandwich or an apple for lunch?” This way they can just focus on the information you are presenting them with — rather than trying to remember their favorite food.
Often times, it is very difficult for people with dementia to remember things in the recent past. Even asking a simple question like, “What did you do this morning?” can cause them to get confused and frustrated because they may not remember. You will typically get much better results if you ask them to reminisce about when they were younger.
Most of us who have visited someone with dementia have had some variation of the following interaction:
Grandpa: “What day of the week is it?”
You: “It’s Saturday, Grandpa”
Grandpa: “Saturday already? My how time flies!”
Then after just a few minutes —
Grandpa: “Hey, what day of the week is it today?”
You: “I just told you, Grandpa. It’s Saturday?”
Grandpa: “Oh you did? I’m sorry.”
It may be frustrating to have to keep answering the same question over and over, but just remember that by saying something like, “It’s Saturday, Grandpa. Don’t you remember? I just told you that.” it can cause Grandpa to get confused and frustrated because he most likely does not remember asking you a few minutes earlier. That’s why he asked again. By telling someone with dementia that they did something when they don’t remember, you are causing frustration that can be easily avoided by simply saying “It’s Tuesday” once more with a smile on your face.
While it’s always good to leave any old beefs at the door, I’m talking more about not bringing up things like loved ones who have passed. For instance, if you are visiting your mother and she asks, “Why didn’t my sister come with everyone to visit me?”
It’s very possible that she may have forgotten that your aunt passed away a few years ago. In these cases, it can be hard to lie, but sometimes it is for the best to simply say something like, “She wasn’t able to make it today.” Sometimes those living with dementia can forget even big events like the death of a loved one and to make them go through that pain over and over again can be much harder than just letting it go and moving on.
If your loved one is going through a difficult time, one of the worst things you can do is just ignore their feelings. That being said, you don’t need to try to solve every emotional issue and sometimes that is a loftier goal than you are capable of handling. What we have found is that it is best simply to acknowledge what they are feeling and then try to move on to something to take their mind off of the issue. For example, if your loved one is crying and doesn’t want to talk about why, you can say to them, “I see that you are upset right now. I’m sorry that you are feeling this way. Let’s go get something to eat”
Staying positive in a difficult situation is always easier when you can have a sense of humor about it. Of course, never use humor at your loved one’s expense, but finding things to laugh about is always a great way to forget about the pain or confusion they may be experiencing, even if just for a moment. Most folks who are dealing with dementia usually keep enough of their social skills that they are still able to find humor in things and would love to laugh with you.
We understand that helping adults with dementia can be a difficult and time consuming activity. Sometimes, just having someone to help with simple chores can make a huge difference in their lives. Our home health care professionals are warm, empathetic, patient, and always professional. If you feel like you or someone you love could benefit from having someone help them around the house, contact Empire Home Health Services today.