Minutes Later Can Feel Like A Whole New Day
Sometimes, loved ones with dementia can become anxious, agitated, and combative while you’re helping them with their activities of daily living. For example, perhaps you’re trying to encourage your mother to brush her teeth and she’s pushing you away and yelling at you. It’s just not going to happen right now.
Instead of increasing your demands about brushing her teeth, try giving her a few minutes to calm down. Ensure her safety and go to a different room for 20 minutes. You might find out that when you return and turn on her favorite music, the task that she was so adamantly opposed to earlier is now much easier and not a big deal. While this won’t always work, it often does, and it’s definitely worth a try.
Dont Use Slang Or Figures Of Speech
As dementia progresses, it can become harder for someone to understand what youre trying to tell them. For example, telling a loved one with Alzheimers disease that its “no use crying over spilled milk” might result in him looking to see where the milk has spilled, rather than end up comforting him or encouraging him not to focus on a past problem.
In fact, the proverb interpretation test, which asks the test taker to interpret abstract ideas such as the spilled milk reference above, is one way to screen for symptoms of dementia.
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease
When we communicate with persons with dementia, they may say something wrong or untrue and thats when we start to wonder whether it is right to correct someone with dementia.
When speaking with a person with the illness, it is IMPORTANT to understand that the disease affects how an individual communicates because it causes the brain to malfunction.
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Should You Correct Someone With Dementia
In this article we address a question we are often asked by visitors to residents in our specialist dementia care homes: should you correct someone with dementia?
Memory problems are one of the symptoms of dementia, and indeed, one of the most overt. The memory loss is very real, and it may not be consistent, or even seem to make sense to the onlooker. You may wonder why one day they can talk about family members in the here and now with utter clarity, and then the next moment forget that person exists.
But the memory loss is more pervasive than this. It can actually end up appearing that the individual is lying, about seemingly small or large things. Theres a real temptation to correct them. But is this the right thing? Should you correct someone with dementia when they are wrong about something?
Should I Correct My Grandparent With Dementia
This implies that if a person is saying something that is not true, they may not be doing it on purpose because it is the illness speaking.
The reality of persons with dementia may be different from your reality.
This simply means that THEY BELIEVE what they are saying because thats what their brain is telling them.
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Stage : Age Associated Memory Impairment
This stage features occasional lapses of memory most frequently seen in:
- Forgetting where one has placed an object
- Forgetting names that were once very familiar
Oftentimes, this mild decline in memory is merely normal age-related cognitive decline, but it can also be one of the earliest signs of degenerative dementia. At this stage, signs are still virtually undetectable through clinical testing. Concern for early onset of dementia should arise with respect to other symptoms.
Help With Incontinence And Using The Toilet
People with dementia may often experience problems with going to the toilet.
Problems can be caused by:
- urinary tract infections
- constipation, which can cause added pressure on the bladder
- some medicines
Sometimes the person with dementia may simply forget they need the toilet or where the toilet is.
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Quality Of Life Is Not Impossible In Dementia
Coping with a diagnosis of dementia is often not easy. There are losses to grieve, changes to make and many things to learn. However, you don’t need to fall for the lie that life will always be terrible with dementia. This is just not true.
Instead, listen to others who’ve been there, who acknowledge the challenges and don’t deny the pain, but who also strive to continue to enjoy life. According to many people who are living with dementia, there are ways to still enjoy life, to still have a high quality of life, despite their challenges. Take hope from their words when they say that they still enjoy socialization with friends, good food, pet therapy, and laughter.
Be Open To A Range Of Possibilities
We often go into situations with set ideas of what we want to speak about or what we expect to hear and we try to switch the conversation quickly to the topic we have in mind. At the beginning of a communication, take your lead from the person with dementia. Dont try to switch topics too soon. In allowing the conversation to develop, give the person time to say what is on their mind. When the person says x they mean y .
Be aware that as word finding becomes more difficult for the person with dementia the content of speech becomes more limited. So, for example, a female name such as Julie may come to represent every female helper rather than referring to Julie in person. A reference to needing my mum may mean that the person is feeling scared and unattached rather than a literal question needing a literal answer about the whereabouts of the persons mother.
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‘i’ve Just Told You That’
Having to answer the same question several times can be frustrating, but repetition will happen. There is little benefit to passing on your frustration to somebody with dementia, and saying Ive just told you that only reminds the person of their condition.
Try this instead:
Try to be polite and as patient as possible. It’s important for somebody with dementia to feel they’re being listened to and understood.
How To Talk To Someone With Dementia Alzheimer’s Or Memory Loss
Communicating with a person with memory loss can be difficult, but the right strategies can bridge the gap and foster a more fulfilling relationship between you and your patient or loved one.
Those struggling to communicate with a person who has memory loss are not alone. As many as four million people in the US may have Alzheimer’s, and, as our population ages, that number is expected to increase. Anyone who is a senior caregiver is likely to be affected and will need to understand how to cope with what is happening.
Memory loss associated with aging, dementia, and Alzheimer’s typically doesnt happen overnight. Slowly, little-by-little, it sneaks up, until one day, family members realize that they can no longer communicate in the same way with the person they’ve known for years. They suddenly can’t rely on their words and their sentences dont match the situation.
Because we cannot see the diseasethe way we see a broken armits even more confusing when caregivers see how their patient and/or loved one will have good and bad days. The days when theyre alert and clear-headed make a caregiver hopeful. Then the bad days come, and family members and caregivers feel the pain of losing their patient and/or loved one all over again. This slow and normal progression of the disease makes communication a major challenge for caregivers.
This blog will share more information and advice to improve communication, including:
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Don’t Talk To Them Like They’re A Young Child Or A Baby
Imagine if someone came up to you and spoke in a sing-song voice, putting their face close to yours. What would your reaction be? Would it be to pull back from that person and withdraw, laugh at them, or simply not respond?
This type of interaction is called “elderspeak,” and it has got to go. A person with Alzheimer’s is an adult, not a child. They will appreciate being treated as such.
Greetings Or Verbal Handshake
Think beforehand about how you are going to greet the person. Do they know who you are? They may not know you even though you know them well. Think about whether you need to say your name or whether a warm hello will suffice. A warm, friendly approach is important in creating a relaxed atmosphere for a conversation to start and develop.
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What Support Is Available For Me If I Care For Someone With Dementia
When youre caring for someone else, it can be easy to overlook your own needs. But looking after your health and making time for yourself can help you feel better and more able to cope with your caring role.
Caring for someone with dementia can lead to feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion or anger. Unlike with other conditions, it can be difficult to share these feelings with someone with dementia, leaving you feeling very isolated.
Its important to acknowledge these feelings, and to remember that theres no right or wrong way to feel. If youre feeling anxious or depressed, or you’re struggling to cope, talk to your doctor who can let you know about the help and support available to you.
If A Person With Dementia Begs To Go Home
What to do if a Person with Dementia Begs to Go Home?
If a person wants to go home, we first need to understand where home is and then we need to understand the reason that this person wants to go home. Using Validation, a method created by Naomi Feil for communicating with people who have dementia, we can learn which home the person would like to go to and the reason they want to go home.
A 90-year-old woman with memory loss bangs on the locked door pleading to let her go home. It could be the door at a senior facility, or it could be the door of her own home.
How do you react?
Methods Often Used When Someone Wants to Go Home:
Do you try to get her attention away from the door by telling her that there is an activity going on or its time to get something to eat?
Does it help? If so, for how long?
In most cases she will be back at that door again sometime soon. Redirection may be a temporary solution, but not a long term one.
Do you tell her that a relative will soon come to take her home just to get her away from the door? This again is a tactic that may only bring a temporary solution, but unfortunately a therapeutic lie may lead to distrust since the woman may understand that no one is coming for her. In Validation we do not lie. We want to build a relationship of trust so the person we are validating will feel safe to open up and talk to us.
The Validation Option
Where is your home?
Who is at home?
My parents will be worried
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Communication Tips For Dementia Caregivers
As dementia progresses, it becomes more difficult for individuals to express their thoughts and feelings, as well as to understand what is being communicated to them. In order to enhance communication with your loved one, try the following tips:
- Speak slowly, at a normal level , using a low-pitched voice. In addition, try to face the person when you are speaking to him or her . Speaking rapidly, loudly, or in a high-pitched voice can be overwhelming or upsetting for someone with dementia.
- Use short, familiar words and simple sentences that clearly express what you want to say.
- Allow your loved one sufficient time to respond. If he or she does not respond, it is okay to repeat your question using the same wording as before. If you ask the question in a different way, your relative might think that you are asking a different question and become overwhelmed.
- Ask only one question or give one direction at a time. Although it seems as though this will take longer than combining questions or instructions, it will actually save time because the person with dementia is less likely to become overwhelmed or confused.
- Give positive instructions avoid saying “don’t” or giving negative commands. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t go in that room,” try saying, “Let’s go over here.”
Communication In The Face Of Memory Loss
First of all, its essential to remember that the person is saying their reality. Its their truth. Whether its that they have just eaten a pear that you know doesnt exist, or they dont have a daughter who very much does. Right now, at this moment in time, thats their truth. They are not lying.
Remembering this yourself can help you to take the statement less personally. This can give you the resources and focus to manage the experience. You can hold onto your truth, whilst respecting that their reality is real to them. You dont need to contradict them. It might help you to think of it as its the disease talking as this depersonalises it. It is hard, and having compassion for yourself is also important.
Dont Neglect Your Own Needs
By always focusing so diligently on your loved ones needs throughout the progression of their dementia, its easy to fall into the trap of neglecting your own welfare. If youre not getting the physical and emotional support you need, you wont be able to provide the best level of care, and youre more likely to become overwhelmed and suffer burnout.
Plan for your own care. Visit your doctor for regular checkups and pay attention to the signs and symptoms of excessive stress. Its easy to abandon the people and activities you love when youre mired in caregiving, but you risk your health and peace of mind by doing so. Take time away from caregiving to maintain friendships, social contacts, and professional networks, and pursue the hobbies and interests that bring you joy.
Do Not Keep Correcting The Patient
People with dementia do not like it when someone keeps correcting them every time they say something that may not be right. It makes them feel bad about themselves and can make them drift out of the conversation. Discussions should be humorous and light and one should always speak slowly and clearly using simple and short sentences to capture and keep the interest of the dementia patients.
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How Often Should You Correct Someone Who Has Dementia
If your elderly family member has dementia, shes probably shared some information with you that has had you scratching your head. You might have wondered whether you should try to correct some of the stories that she shares. Dementia changes a lot about how your seniors reality functions, so it might be better to go with the flow.
What Shes Saying Is True for Her
The very first thing for you to realize in this situation is that your elderly family member doesnt feel or realize that shes in a different reality from your own. Shes sharing what she feels is true based on the information that she has and the reality that shes in at the moment. She doesnt see what shes saying as untrue or a fib.
Does it Matter?
Youre going to need to assess this from the standpoint of whether it truly matters or not. Is someone being harmed by your seniors belief in the story shes told you? If no harm is going to come from the version your senior is telling, then theres no harm in letting her continue with her version.
Using Logic Often Backfires
On the flip side, if youre trying to use logic to try to bring your senior to your way of thinking is more likely to backfire. Dementia changes how her brain works, which means that youre not going to see things the same way that she does and shes not going to think the same way that she used to. The rules of logic work differently for her now.
Youre Not Encouraging Something Bad
This Takes Practice
Don’t Ask Other People Questions About Them While They’re Right There
The opposite of quizzing someone is this scenario: “Hi, Fred. So, Sue, how’s Fred been doing? How’s his memory? Is he having any pain? Do you think he’s sad? What does he want for lunch today?”
Consider this a gentle reminder to be intentional about directly asking the person with Alzheimer’s a few questions. If they are completely unable to answer, you can then check with a family member in a respectful way.
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Make Time For Reflection
At each new stage of dementia, you have to alter your expectations about what your loved one is capable of. By accepting each new reality and taking time to reflect on these changes, you can better cope with the emotional loss and find greater satisfaction in your caregiving role.
Keep a daily journal to record and reflect on your experiences. By writing down your thoughts, you can mourn losses, celebrate successes, and challenge negative thought patterns that impact your mood and outlook.
Count your blessings. It may sound counterintuitive in the midst of such challenges, but keeping a daily gratitude list can help chase away the blues. It can also help you focus on what your loved one is still capable of, rather than the abilities theyve lost.
Value what is possible. In the middle stages of dementia, your loved one still has many abilities. Structure activities to invite their participation on whatever level is possible. By valuing what your loved one is able to give, you can find pleasure and satisfaction on even the toughest days.
Improve your emotional awareness. Remaining engaged, focused, and calm in the midst of such tremendous responsibility can challenge even the most capable caregivers. By developing your emotional awareness skills, however, you can relieve stress, experience positive emotions, and bring new peace and clarity to your caretaking role.