Tips for Maximizing Positive Relationships with Persons who have Alzheimer’s Disease or a Related Dementia

  1. Be complimentary. In the early stages, these individuals often realize that something is wrong. Compliments make them feel better.
  2. Focus on the abilities that a person still has rather than on what abilities he has lost. That can be a little tricky with a group, but following tip three will help.
  3. Know the people in the group. Learn about them by talking to them, talking to other staff members, and talking to family and friends about them. If he/she is a resident in a facility, examining the chart may also help.
  4. Allow ample time for a response.
  5. Help the memory challenged person to communicate. He may have trouble word finding. Fill in the blanks for him. At the same time, be complimentary.
  6. Give out plenty of hugs. Please note that there are a few of the memory challenged that do not like to be touched.
  7. Adapt and modify an activity they used to enjoy.
  8. Use chaining, (Have all but one or two steps of a project completed ahead of time), then ask the memory impaired person to finish the task.
  9. Go with the flow. If a group session does not go as planned, follow the lead of the participants. You should always have an alternate activity planned.
  10. Make group activities multilevel. In this way, you can include everyone in the activity planned (see the idea pages for help with this).
  11. Establish a daily routine, but…
  12. Be flexible.
  13. Allow plenty of time to get ready.
  14. Have something to do if you have extra time.
  15. NEVER argue.
  16. Enter their reality
    Example: If the person thinks its 1980 and she is sixty years old, then, for the moment, it is 1980 and she is sixty years old. You can have some great discussions with her about this time period.
  17. Use therapeutic fiblets (an untruth told to a person with dementia to make him feel better)
    Example: A person with dementia is asking to see his mother. In reality, his mother died twenty years ago. You do not want to tell him that because, most likely, he will think he is hearing this information for the first time. He will be devastated. Therefore, ask him about his mother. Say, It sounds to me like you are thinking about your mother. Tell me about her. Ask other questions if necessary.
  18. Allow people to express their feelings. People with dementia may not remember what was said or what happened, but they often will remember how it made them feel.
  19. Nip agitated behavior in the bud. Divert and redirect. Do something to stop the unwanted behavior, then, redirect him to another activity.
    Example: Say, I understand you want to go home now, but first can you please help me wash this table. You are the only one who can do it right. Let’s go get the supplies we need. Then talk about the supplies you need. Ask as many questions as you can to redirect his interest. There is a chance this will not work. You can try another diversion such as looking at this book, counting the number of cards in a deck, or sorting the cards. It is best to know what the person’s interests are in order for this strategy to be most effective.
  20. Be patient. Ask the memory challenged person to be patient also. Using this saying often helps; Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can. Often found in women but never in a man. Substitute someone’s name in place of women, especially if you want that person to be patient.
  21. Smile and ask the memory challenged person to smile. Smiling is contagious.
  22. Laugh and ask the memory challenged person to laugh. Laughing is even more contagious. If the group leader starts belly laughing, the group members, most likely, will soon follow.
  23. Take advantage of Adult Day Care. If you are the primary caregiver for a person with dementia, these settings offer you a much needed break. They also offer the memory challenged person a fun place to be. These centers offer creative ways to get the memory challenged involved. There should be one in your area. For help finding one, contact your local Alzheimer’s Association.
  24. Attend a support group. Don’t go through this alone. You will find many caregivers are in a similar situation to yours. Talking about issues you face will, at the very least, make you feel better. You probably will get some good ideas as well. Groups meet everyday in most areas. Again, there should be a group in your area. Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association for more information.

Cited from the book, Adorable Photographs of Our Baby – Meaningful, Mind-Stimulating Activities and More for the Memory Challenged, Their Loved Ones, and Involved Professionals by Susan Berg