A few weeks ago, on the blog we discussed the basics of dementia. This week we will be taking a closer look at how to cope with a loved one having this detrimental syndrome. It can be very difficult to watch a loved one undergo mental changes where they may not recognize you or they may lash out against you. Frustration can arise quickly in certain situations where a family member, friend, or caregiver does not know how to respond properly to a reaction. However, we can learn how to take a different approach to dementia and learn how to properly communicate to have the most effective outcome. Those effected by dementia are doing the best they can to live as normally of a life as they can. It is up to those around the effected to take care of them and change our approach to the syndrome so that we can have more positive interactions.
First thing is first, stay positive. Dementia can be a tough syndrome to deal with but it can be a time to reminisce on the wonderful life they have lived. Those with dementia often times have shorter-term memory loss so although they may not remember what they ate for breakfast they can recall a pivotal point in their life thirty years prior. Recalling exciting times in life can be a soothing and even fun activity – it also helps family members and caregivers to positively engage with patients (Family Caregiver Alliance). When communicating set a pleasant mood, body language and unhappiness can be easily understood. Be as direct as possible by limiting distractions, addressing the patient by name, identifying yourself in relation to them, and maintaining level eye contact. Speak clearly and use simple words and sentences. Try to keep a reassuring tone and be patient if your question isn’t understood, try to restate it with different wording. Ask questions that have definite answers. For example, “would you like orange juice or water with breakfast?” This eliminates confusion and open-ended questions that can be hard for dementia patients to answer. These communication skills can help with tougher situations especially when dementia it is in its last stages. In the later stages, elders become much more difficult and will not want to cooperate. In these times, try to practice as much patience as much as possible, use creative and flexible approaches. Sometimes humor can be a great mood lightener, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “people with dementia tend to retain their social skills and are usually delighted to laugh along with you”.
In terms of self-assurance, it is okay to ask for help when caring for dementia patients. It can be hard and self-draining, watching a loved one’s mental state deteriorate. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “though the care provided by family members of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is somewhat similar to the help provided by caregivers of people with other conditions, dementia caregivers tend to provide more extensive assistance.” At times, it may come to a point where outside help is needed. It can also be helpful to open up to someone and talk about what you are dealing with and your feelings. There are millions of people who have a loved one affected by dementia; in fact, “every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s dementia” (Gaugler). There are even support groups for family members and friends who need to express their feelings. It can be useful to hear other people’s stories and how they handle some of the toughest days. Read up on the syndrome and learn more about it to understand further the symptoms. In all, try to stay as positive as possible, you have the ability to approach the situation in a productive and beneficial manner.
Family Caregiver Alliance. “Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors.” Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors | Family Caregiver Alliance. Ed. Beth Logan. Family Caregiver Alliance, n.d. Web. 19 July 2017. <https://www.caregiver.org/caregivers-guide-understanding-dementia-behaviors>.
Gaugler, Joseph, Ph.D., Bryan James, Ph.D., Tricia Johnson, Ph.D., and Jennifer Weuve, M.P.H., Sc.D. “2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” Alzheimer’s Association (2017): 33-45. Web. 19 July 2017. <https://www.alz.org/documents_custom/2017-facts-and-figures.pdf>.