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How To Work With Dementia

How The Law Protects People With Dementia At Work

Working with Dementia (1 of 6)

The first thing to know is that the law is on your side. People living with dementia are protected from discrimination under The Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales. The Disability Discrimination Act works in a similar way in Northern Ireland.

Both Acts require employers to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to help you do your job. This could mean introducing flexible working hours, for example, or moving your working area somewhere quieter.

Annual Report To Parliament On Canada’s Dementia Strategy

Each year the federal Minister of Health prepares a report to Parliament on the national dementia strategy.

The 2020 Report to Parliament shares a Canada-wide overview of some of the many dementia-related efforts underway across the country. This report highlights how many different organizations, including the federal government, are supporting the strategy’s national objectives and reflects the variety of those efforts.

Talk With Your Family And Children About Caregiving

Be honest while explaining dementia to children. Children are very intuitive. They will know that their grandparent, aunt or uncle are changing and that their behavior is odd. Explain the disease and that loving the senior family member is most important. Engage them and empower them to be part of the caregiving process. Younger children can read to the senior, or help you with chores. The family will be less stressed when the situation is discussed out in the open.

You might also wish to share ideas with your kids on how to communicate with your loved one:

  • Go with it. If the grandparent says something that doesnt seem to make sense, tell children to just play along. Its sort of like playing make believe.
  • Plan ahead. Suggest what to talk about, or choose an activity in advance.
  • Use activities. Try a coloring book, listen to music or sing songs together.

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How To Manage Repeated Questions And Confusion

Asking questions over and over again, as well as not being able to understand why things are happening are symptoms and behaviors that come with dementia, according to the American Psychological Association.

  • Communicate with simple, direct language.
  • Use photos and other tangible items as props to explain situations.
  • Remain calm and supportive.
  • Use tools such as alarms, calendars, and to-do lists to help them remember tasks.


  • Rely on lengthy explanations and reasoning, as this may further overwhelm your family member.

Benefits Of Telling Your Employer About Your Diagnosis

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Some people can feel anxious about telling their employer, but there can be many benefits. By informing your workplace, you will be able to access support that could help make work more manageable. If you dont tell your employer about your diagnosis, they may not have any legal duty to help you.

Wendy Mitchell was working for the NHS when she was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease, aged 58. She remembers feeling nervous before telling her colleagues, but later found them a huge source of support

‘Theres no point in keeping it a secret otherwise colleagues will only make up their own stories of why youre struggling and might be less supportive.

‘Once people understand WHY something is happening, youll be surprised how supportive and helpful those around you can be, just like my wonderful team.’

Whether or not you tell your other colleagues that you have dementia is always your choice. Theres no rush to make a decision, so take your time and consider asking your employer for advice.

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Coping With Changes In Behavior And Personality

As well as changes in communication during the middle stages of dementia, troubling behavior and personality changes can also occur. These behaviors include aggressiveness, wandering, hallucinations, and eating or sleeping difficulties that can be distressing to witness and make your role as caregiver even more difficult.

Often, these behavioral issues are triggered or exacerbated by your loved ones inability to deal with stress, their frustrated attempts to communicate, or their environment. By making some simple changes, you can help ease your loved ones stress and improve their well-being, along with your own caregiving experience.

Strategies For Personal Support Workers Working With Dementia Residents

Dementia and Alzheimers are prevalent in all levels of care when taking care of the elderly. One of the main reasons we have such facilities as nursing homes is to help those who are no longer capable of taking care of themselves due to these mental illnesses.

PSWs are the ones who are on the front lines working hand in hand, directly with individuals who have this illness.

Under no circumstance is it easy, but there are steps we can take to make it so. Our number one priority is always our resident, however our safety is something we cannot ignore.

Often times people with dementia tend to be verbally and sometimes physically aggressive.

Tying someone down or yelling at them isnt an option in fact, itll get you fired. Remember it is the illness doing all these things, not the individual.

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How You Can Help

Let the person help with everyday tasks, such as:

  • shopping

These can lead to increased confusion and make the symptoms of dementia worse.

Common food-related problems include:

  • forgetting what food and drink they like
  • refusing or spitting out food
  • asking for strange food combinations

These behaviours can be due to a range of reasons, such as confusion, pain in the mouth caused by sore gums or ill-fitting dentures, or difficulty swallowing.

How To Help With Poor Judgment

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The deterioration of brain cells caused by Alzheimers disease can lead to poor judgment and errors in thinking. Some of these symptoms are obvious and apparent, such as hoarding household items, accusing a family member of stealing, or forgetting how to do routine tasks.

Some signs are more subtle, making it difficult for your aging loved one to realize theyre struggling. If youre curious and dont want to ask, take a look at a heating bill, suggests Mariotto. Sometimes payments are delinquent, or bills arent being paid at all.

Its important to minimize frustration and embarrassment for dementia patients, so know what works for your loved one and incorporate it into your caregiving strategy.

  • Listen and offer subtle help.
  • Work together to fix the problem.
  • Simplify a task or routine by breaking it down into smaller steps.

This is what Napoletan did for her mother: As I sifted through records to complete her tax return, I gently mentioned noticing a couple of overdraft fees and asked if the bank had perhaps made a mistake. As we talked through it, she volunteered that she was having more and more difficulty keeping things straight, and knew she had made some errors. She asked if I would mind helping with the checkbook going forward. I remember her being so relieved after we talked about it. From there, over time, Napoletan was gradually able to gain more control over her mothers finances.


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Dont Ask A Person With Short

A patient and/or loved one can construe even the simplest of conversation starters as a real question, but they honestly dont know the answer to it. This can be embarrassing and can send them back into a fogthey try their best to give an answer that makes sense to them and often produce immediate physical concerns: I’m having a lot of pain, for example. A caregiver and/or family member might ask, What did you have for breakfast? and the person with memory loss doesn’t remember at all. They might say earnestly, I haven’t had anything to eat for weeks, . So these are questions to avoid because it causes fear for the person, that they have failed. But there things you can talk about

Hospital Emergencies: What You Can Do

A trip to the emergency room can tire and frighten a person with Alzheimers or other dementia. Here are some ways to cope:

  • Ask a friend or family member to go with you or meet you in the ER. He or she can stay with the person while you answer questions.
  • Be ready to explain the symptoms and events leading up to the ER visitpossibly more than once to different staff members.
  • Tell ER staff that the person has dementia. Explain how best to talk with the person.
  • Comfort the person. Stay calm and positive. How you are feeling will get absorbed by others.
  • Be patient. It could be a long wait if the reason for your visit is not life-threatening.
  • Recognize that results from the lab take time.
  • Realize that just because you do not see staff at work does not mean they are not working.
  • Be aware that emergency room staff have limited training in Alzheimers disease and related dementias, so try to help them better understand the person.
  • Encourage hospital staff to see the person as an individual and not just another patient with dementia who is confused and disoriented from the disease.
  • Do not assume the person will be admitted to the hospital.
  • If the person must stay overnight in the hospital, try to have a friend or family member stay with him or her.

Do not leave the emergency room without a plan. If you are sent home, make sure you understand all instructions for follow-up care.

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Do Try To Be Forgiving And Patient

Do not forget that dementia is the condition that results in irrational behavior and causes dementia sufferers to act the way they do. The patients demand plenty of patience and forgiveness from the people looking after them. Have the heart to let things go instead of carrying grudges around for something that the patient may not be in control of.

Common Frustrations & Difficulties

(PDF) Life Story Work in Dementia Care

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 the patient and/or loved one. For caregiverswhether you’re a professional or a family member caring for a loved oneits important to adopt a positive attitude to effectively communicate.

Engaging with patients and/or loved ones in an encouraging and patient manner will help minimize feelings of frustration. If you’re struggling to connect with a patient and/or loved one with memory loss, its important to know a few common frustrations and traps and how you can avoid them.

First, remind yourself that people with dementia and/or Alzheimers only have the present moment, so we can let them know that we enjoy their company. When caring for someone who has the disease, the most important thing to take care of is that persons feelings. A person with memory loss cant remember the minute before, they dont know whats going to happen in the next minute. They cant do that kind of thinking, so how they feel right now is the most important thing to pay attention to.

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Do Keep Eye Contact When Speaking

Communicating with a dementia patient requires a lot of patience, especially during later stages of dementia. It is vital to ensure that you talk in a place that has good lighting, a place that is quiet and without too many distractions. Do not try and stand over the person you are talking to, but rather try to be at their level and keep eye contact at all times. Take care to make sure that body language is relaxed and open. Prepare to spend quality time with the person so that they do not feel rushed or like they are a bother.

Do Not Try And Alter Undesirable Behavior

Lack of understanding may push one to try and change or stop any undesirable behavior from patients who have dementia. Keep in mind that it is almost impossible to teach new skills or even reason with the patient. Try instead to decrease frequency or intensity of the behavior. For instance, respond to emotion and not the changes in behavior. If a patient insists on always asking about a particular family member reassure them that he or she is safe and healthy as a way of keeping them calm and happy.

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Find Resources For Coping With Caregiver Stress

When a loved one is in the moderate and severe stages of dementia, it is normal to feel high levels of caregiver stress. You may also need to cope with grief as you approach the loss of a loved one. It might be comforting to compare notes with a social worker experienced in working with caregivers. The social worker can share coping strategies for dealing with the many demands of caring for a loved one.

In the meantime, review these thought-starters:

  • Schedule me-time. The more demanding your caregiving situation is, the more important it is to look after yourself.
  • Take regular breaks. This will help you to avoid caregiver burnout due to the often overwhelming demands of caregiving.
  • Dont try to do everything on your own. Seek support from family, friends, and outside resources.

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Music And Art Activities

Working with Dementia (4 of 6)
  • Keep a journal. Not only can journaling ease the stress of a person with dementia, its an excellent mental exercise to keep the mind active. — Laura Bowley, The Benefits of Journaling for Caregivers and People with Dementia, Mindset Centre for Living with Dementia
  • Take note of the power of music. Studies have shown music may reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood. Music provides a way to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult. — Art and Music, Alzheimers Association Twitter:
  • Play their favorite song. Use music to soothe your loved one, or to connect to and communicate with them. Play their favorite tune when youre spending time together, or put on a quiet, calming song when theyre upset. — The Music Connection and Dementia, Homewatch CareGivers Twitter:
  • Get crafty. These might include simple craft activities, such as creating collages from magazines, or knitting. Someone who has been a skillful knitter may still be able to knit squares for a blanket. — Finding suitable activities, Alzheimers Society of Canada Twitter:
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    Paranoia Delusion And Hallucinations

    Distortions of reality, such as paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations, can be another result of the disease process in dementia. Not everyone with dementia develops these symptoms, but they can make dementia much more difficult to handle.

    Lewy body dementia, in particular, increases the likelihood of delusions and hallucinations, although they can occur in all types of dementia.

    As Dementia Progresses It Can Become Harder For Someone To Understand What Youre Trying To Tell Themfor 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

    How to deal with people with dementia. When someone has memory loss, he often forgets important things, e.g., that his mother is deceased. Its normal to have moments where you dont know what to do, so dont worry if youre unsure about how to deal with dementia. There are fears and concerns for the individual who

    People with dementia will often repeat a word, statement, question, or activity over and over. It is better to step out of the room and try some breathing exercises to calm down before going back to deal with the dementia patient. One in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, and the condition affects 1 in 6 people over 80.

    Try changing the subject to make them stop asking the question. There are many causes of dementia, but the most common is alzheimers disease. A referral to local services and/or social services in order to assist you in accessing more practical help and support can also be made on your behalf by the helpline.

    People with dementia can easily become isolated or avoided by those around them. Incontinence in people with dementia can be very distressing, and a large burden to those providing care. Many people agree that exposure to light therapy especially during the daytime can help maintain the circadian rhythm.

    Read more about how dementia is diagnosed. Dont argue or use logic to convince. When we remind him of this loss, we remind him about the pain of that loss also.


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    Dont Say No Dont Or Cant

    One of the biggest mistakes in dealing with patients and/or loved ones with memory loss is being negative and telling them that they cant do something. Words like no,” don’t, or can’t create resistance. This comes up regularly with family members when the patient and/or loved one might be still driving, and the caregiver and/or family member has made the decision to stop them from driving. One should never say, You can’t drive anymore. They can still technically drive , and they can get very combative when told no. A way to counter this is to say, I know you still can drive, that’s not even a question, but you know what happened the other day? I was out on the highway and this car cut me off, and I had to make a split-second decision it was really scary Its likely they will say, You know what? I’m having a little trouble with those decisions too. The issue isn’t the mechanical driving, it has more to do with comprehension, and many times this answer works much better than, You can’t drive anymore, which can be construed as confrontational.

    You may find a patient and/or loved one up too early or confused about time. Instead of using messages such as, Youre up too early, you need to go to bed, try leading with statements such as, You know, I’m getting sleepy. Id like a little snack before I go to bed, and then gesture for the patient and/or loved one to sit with you.


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