As we continue to explore Dementia and Alzheimer’s, this week we will focus on ideas on how to interact, care for and love someone with dementia and ways to make it more enjoyable and comfortable for all.
It is crushing to watch a parent, spouse or other loved slowly lose their memory and with it their independence. It breaks our hearts, but it is also frustrating for everyone involved. The person with Alzheimer’s is frustrated that they cannot remember how to do what once came easily. Forgetting someone’s name, how to cook their favorite recipe or who someone is in a picture is hard. They do not understand why and that leads to anger and being short-tempered. Our instinct is to say don’t you remember, why are your clothes on backwards, why are you so angry or try harder. The truth is, we are making the disease about us, not about our loved one. Here are some better ways to interact with our loved ones to facilitate better interactions and continue to create memories while putting their needs first.
- Be patient.Take time to listen and allow time for the person with dementia to talk without interruption.
- Learn to interpret.Try to understand what is being said based on the context. If the person is struggling to get an idea out, offer a guess.
- Be connected.Make eye contact while communicating and call the person by name. Hold hands while talking.
- Pay attention to their most alert times of the day. Schedule doctor appointments, family and friend visits or outings during their best time of the day.
- Schedules are best. Try to keep each day similar, schedule mealtimes and showers at set times each day.
- Be aware of your nonverbal cues.Speak calmly. Keep your body language relaxed.
- Offer comfort.If a person with dementia is having trouble communicating, let him or her know it’s OK and provide gentle encouragement.
- Show respect.Avoid baby talk and diminutive phrases, such as “good girl.” Don’t talk about the person as if he or she weren’t there.
- Offer choices.Offer choices when making a request for something a person might resist. For example, if someone is reluctant to shower, you might say, “Would you like to take a shower before dinner or after dinner?”
- Avoid criticizing, correcting and arguing.Don’t correct mistakes. Avoid arguing when the person says something you disagree with.
- Let them believe in themselves. If they are telling a story about a deceased relative and insisting, they are still alive, let them believe that. Enjoy the memory they are sharing; fighting will only lead to anger on all sides.
- Take breaks.If you’re frustrated, take a timeout.
- Love them for not only who they were but for who they are now.
No one way works for everyone with dementia, so be flexible for them. Get help for their care and remember that sometimes the best way to love someone with Alzheimer’s is to hire help or move them into a memory care home.
Resources: National Institute on Aging and Mayo Clinic