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What To Say To Someone Whose Spouse Has Dementia

Dont Talk Down To Them

3 things to NEVER do with your loved one with dementia

Caregivers and/or family members should never talk down to the individual with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, and this especially includes baby talk, which doesn’t work neurologically . The fact that the patient and/or loved one is having problems with language does not mean that talking to them like a four-year-old is going to help. The communication style should still be to a respected, older adult.

Emotional Support For Spouses/partners Of Individuals With Dementia

Last year, Mariaâs husband was diagnosed with dementia. In the past twelve months, Maria has providing; care for her beloved spouse while noticing his symptoms worsen. The man who has been Mariaâs partner and best friend for nearly fifty years now struggles to recognize her each morning and is becoming increasingly angry as his dementia progresses. While Maria loves her husband, she finds herself bombarded by an array of emotions ranging from sadness to frustration to resentment. Although Maria is comforted by the fact that sheâs able to care for her husband, she has also recognized the need to care for her own well-being.

Providing care for an individual with dementia can be an overwhelming task at times, leaving family caregivers feeling depressed, frustrated or even angry. Each of these emotions is a normal response to the progression of dementia in a loved one, and should not be discounted. In order to keep providing care, family caregivers understandably need the support of others to help express and manage their own emotions. However, many family caregivers are unsure of where to find the support they need, especially when the person that has been their âshoulder to lean onâ for so long is no longer available.

Are you providing care to a spouse/partner with dementia? If so, please leave a comment and let us know where you have found emotional support for your caregiving journey.

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Distraction: Singing & Reading

For some people, a distraction can be a good way to get the chore done. Its kind of a different communication style that helps in distressing situations. For example, if a patient and/or loved one likes;singing,;starting him/her singing could allow the;caregiver and/or family member;to ease into;bathing time with a gesture.

Singing actually can help tremendously with memory loss patients and/or loved ones who;can no longer talk, or have trouble finding words to form sentences, because they are usually still able to sing a song. Often, they can remember the lyrics of a song from beginning to end.

Many patients and/or loved ones can still read as well. Singing and reading can give the person great joy and hearing a loved ones voice can very comforting for family members.

Recommended Reading: How To Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

Some Tips For Coping With The Dementia Grief

  • Find a community of other Alzheimer’s families, in support groups and/or online. This is the single most important coping action you can take to manage dementia grief. You need to be with people who understand your position from the inside out and do not need you to find words to describe what cannot be articulated.
  • Find time to mourn and grieve in your own way, whether this is with a support group, being near the ocean, or going to church. Realize that there are different ways people grieve that are valid; do not become caught up in what “grieving” before your family has physically passed looks like. Some people need to cry, some need to revisit happy memories, some need to pray, some express grief creatively, and some need to be active and feel useful. It’s possible you may need or want to express your grief in different ways at different times.
  • Learning and practicing mindfulness skills, or meditation, can be a powerful tool for managing dementia grief. It may sound odd that a powerful tool is to learn to be present, tolerate, and accept the grief. But it’s important to understand that dementia grief simply is a part of your life. It may be challenging at times, but in itself, it is not bad; it means you love someone. There is nothing to resolve, nothing to fix, nothing to do with the grief itself, except to recognize the impact on you.
  • Cherish the one you love, the time you have with them, nurturing and seeding memories that will soothe you for years to come.

    How To Cope When Your Spouse Has Dementia

    What to Say to a Friend Whose Spouse Has Dementia ...

    This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011. This article has been viewed 47,300 times.

    A part of marriage is caring for your spouse when they are sick or ailing. Although a spouse with dementia may not visibly appear sick, this person is suffering from memory loss and confusion. Watching your spouses mental abilities deteriorate may be difficult. You may feel uncertain about how to help your spouse with dementia and how to adjust to this major life change. By redefining your marriage and accepting your new roles, asking for support, and taking care of yourself, you can handle this new season of your life.

    Read Also: Senile Dementia Of The Alzheimer Type

    Put Yourself In Their Shoes

    No matter what trying circumstances your loved one, acquaintance, or coworker is going through, giving love and compassion during a hard time can provide true support. Try to imagine yourself in their shoes.

    What would you want or need to hear? Or, think back to someone else in your life who dealt with a sick relative. What was it that made them feel better? After all, it may not be the specific words you choose, but your intent behind them. If youre truly wanting to comfort someone, theyll feel it.;

    If you need more ideas on how to be there for your loved one, check out our guides to sympathy gift ideas, how to sign a sympathy card, and how to write a condolences email.

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    Develop Helpful Daily Routines

    Having general daily routines and activities can provide a sense of consistency for an Alzheimers or dementia patient and help ease the demands of caregiving. Of course, as your loved ones ability to handle tasks deteriorates, youll need to update and revise these routines.

    Keep a sense of structure and familiarity. Try to keep consistent daily times for activities such as waking up, mealtimes, dressing, receiving visitors, and bedtime. Keeping these things at the same time and place can help orientate the person with dementia. Use cues to establish the different times of dayopening the curtains in the morning, for example, or playing soothing music at night to indicate bedtime.

    Involve your loved one in daily activities as much as theyre able. For example, they may not be able to tie their shoes, but may be able to put clothes in the hamper. Clipping plants in the yard may not be safe, but they may be able to weed, plant, or water.

    Vary activities to stimulate different sensessight, smell, hearing, and touchand movement. For example, you can try singing songs, telling stories, dancing, walking, or tactile activities such as painting, gardening, or playing with pets.

    Spend time outdoors. Going for a drive, visiting a park, or taking a short walk can be very therapeutic. Even just sitting outside can be relaxing.

    Don’t Miss: Difference Between Dementia And Senility

    Things Not To Say To Someone With Dementia

    Speaking to an elderly loved one with dementia can be difficult and emotionally draining. Alzheimers and dementia can lead to conversations that dont make sense, are inappropriate or uncomfortable, and may upset a family caregiver. However, over time, its important to adapt to the seniors behavior, and understand that their condition doesnt change who they are.

    For senior caregivers, its important to always respond with patience. Here are some things to remember not to say to someone with dementia, and what you can say instead.

    1. Youre wrong

    For experienced caregivers, this one may seem evident. However, for someone who hasnt dealt with loss of cognitive function before, it can be hard to go along with something a loved one says that clearly isnt true. Theres no benefit to arguing, though, and its best to avoid upsetting a senior with dementia, who is already in a vulnerable emotional state due to confusion.

    Instead, change the subject.

    Its best to distract, not disagree. If an elderly loved one makes a wrong comment, dont try to fight them on it; just change the subject and talk about something else ideally, something pleasant, to change their focus. There are plenty of things not to say to someone with dementia, but if theres one to remember, its anything that sounds like youre wrong.

    2. Do you remember?

    Instead, say: I remember

    3. They passed away.

    Instead

    4. I told you

    Instead, repeat what you said.

    Make Sure Your Loved One Knows You Have A Plan To Help

    Top 3 signs your loved one with dementia needs nursing home care

    Reassure your mother or father that there are many things you can do together to help them live their best possible life. This includes education. Together you can find the right medical care, look into local support organizations, and plan ahead for legal and medical needs. Discuss how to create a safe home environment, especially if your loved one lives alone.

    Dont sugarcoat the diagnosis, but dont push the panic button either. Tell your loved one that the two of you will create a plan together.

    Read Also: What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Senility

    Try Diverting The Conversation

    Keep a photograph album handy. Sometimes looking at pictures from their past and being given the chance to reminisce will ease feelings of anxiety. It might be best to avoid asking questions about the picture or the past, instead trying to make comments: ‘That looks like Uncle Fred. Granny told me about the time he….’

    Alternatively, you could try diverting them with food, music, or other activities, such as a walk.

    Dementia’s Continuous Sense Of Grief And Loss

    Many people associate grief with the feelings of sadness and loss that often occur after someone you love passes away. But the grief process for dementia caregivers starts long before a loved one dies. In fact, the grief cycle springs into action as early as the day your relative is diagnosed with the disease. This sends the caregiver on a long, slow journey with multiple losses along the way. The cognitive declines associated with dementia often force caregivers to grieve in a way that feels more like they’re losing pieces of their loved one on a daily basis. You might pass through the mourning cycle countless times, maybe experiencing feelings of grief many years before your loved ones life ends.

    Recommended Reading: Does Meredith Grey Have Alzheimer’s

    Cope With Changes In Communication

    As your loved ones Alzheimers or dementia progresses, youll notice changes in how they communicate. They may have trouble finding words, substitute one word for another, repeat the same things over and over, or become easily confused. Increased hand gestures, losing their train of thought, and even inappropriate outbursts are all common as well.

    Even if your loved one has trouble maintaining a conversationor less interest in starting oneits important to encourage social interaction. Making them feel safe rather than stressed will make communication easier, so try to manage your own frustration levels.

    Be patient. If your loved one has difficulty recalling a word, for example, allow them time. Getting anxious or impatient will only inhibit their recall. Gently supply the word or tell the person that you can come back to it later.

    Be aware of your body language. Your loved one responds to your facial expression, tone of voice, and nonverbal cues as much as the words you choose. Make eye contact, stay calm, and keep a relaxed, open posture.

    Speak slowly and clearly. Give one direction or ask one question at a time, use short sentences, and give your loved one more time to process whats being said. Find a simpler way to say the same thing if it wasnt understood the first time.

    Maintain respect. Dont use patronizing language, baby talk, or sarcasm. It can cause hurt or confusion.

    Please Steer Clear From These Select Phrases

    What to Say to a Friend Whose Spouse Has Dementia ...

    You must feel alone.

    Caregivers may feel like they are adrift at sea in a leaky lifeboat; however, they are never truly on their own. With an estimated 500,000 Canadians having Alzheimers disease or a related dementia , you wont have to look too far to find someone else affected by the condition. Sharing with and learning from another caregiver in a similar situation can be both therapeutic and beneficial. Additionally, there are many programs and services available across the country for Alzheimers caregivers. Instead of leaving the caregiver floating aimlessly, hand him/her a life jacket and recommend contacting The Alzheimers Society of Canada or the closest provincial chapter of The Alzheimers Society.

    Your mother / father is wrong.

    Mom / Dad may think that today is Tuesday rather than Saturday , but, trust me, pointing out such errors is futile. You may likely hear the very same statement a few minutes later . Arguing with someone with an Alzheimers patient is also embarrassing and maddening for someone in the early stages of dementia, as he/she may likely realize that his/her memory is starting to slip. Its far better to smile and accept what the senior has said as truth remember that it is Alzheimers disease which confuses the facts.

    Things arent going to get better.

    Things are going to get better.

    Finding things to do with your mother / father must be tough.

    Also Check: Senile Dementia Of The Alzheimer Type

    Telling About A Death

    Here are some hints for telling a person with dementia about a death:

      • Tell the news as soon as possible. They will sense that something is wrong and need information to understand, even if just for that period of time.
      • If you are too emotional to talk to them, find someone else maybe a friend or healthcare professional.
      • Choose a time to talk when the person with dementia is well rested.
      • Use short, simple sentences. Dont give too many details; this may overwhelm them.
      • Answer questions as honestly as possible.
      • Use clear words like died instead of passed away or at peace now.
      • Try not to protect the person from the truth by suggesting that the person who has died is away and will return later. This can cause worry and agitation later when the person does not return.
      • You can support them with physical touch, such as a hug or holding hands.
      • Consider involving the person with dementia in funeral planning, assigning a simple task. This will help the death be more real for them.;They may recognize the rituals around death and act appropriately.
      • Plan for someone to be with the person during services who can also take them out if they become agitated.

    Find Mental Space For Your Friends

    This caregiving experience is so all-consuming that it can take over all your headspace before you realize it.

    Its a well-known fact that people who are suffering become very self-centered. When I was going through my divorce, I was a nightmare to be around. I found that my bitterness was very toxic to other people. Even the very best of friends, the most patient of souls has her limit.

    So, if you are the caregiver, be aware of this dynamic and make a conscious effort to be emotionally present for your friends.

    Finding a place to connect with people who are going through the same thing can make this SO much easier and, at the same time, take some of the burden off your friends. Weve set up Daughterhood Circles for that very purpose. Daughterhood Circles are small groups that get together regularly to hang out and help each other through this experience. Friends helping friends.

    Having this outlet can help you avoid overtaxing your other friendships.

    Read Also: Senility Vs Dementia Vs Alzheimer’s

    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

    Preserving Your Loved Ones Independence

    How Can You Help Someone with Dementia

    Take steps to slow the progression of symptoms. While treatments are available for some symptoms, lifestyle changes can also be effective weapons in slowing down the diseases progression. Exercising, eating and sleeping well, managing stress, and staying mentally and socially active are among the steps that can improve brain health and slow the process of deterioration. Making healthy lifestyle changes alongside your loved one can also help protect your own health and counter the stress of caregiving.

    Help with short-term memory loss. In the early stages, your loved one may need prompts or reminders to help them remember appointments, recall words or names, keep track of medications, or manage bills and money, for example. To help your loved one maintain their independence, instead of simply taking over every task yourself, try to work together as a partnership. Let your loved one indicate when they want help remembering a word, for example, or agree to check their calculations before paying bills. Encourage them to use a notebook or smartphone to create reminders to keep on hand.

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