Can you imagine what it’s like to not recognize your children? What if everyone was a complete stranger? On top of that, you only understand every third or fourth word spoken to you. Sadly, this is reality for many dementia patients. What can we do to help?
First, accept that this is their reality, and you can’t change it. Trying to make them remember doesn’t work, and may only add to their frustration. Avoid telling them to try to remember, or to think about it.
A person who has dementia may believe that they are younger than they are/or have moments of living in the past. For instance, a woman may give you her maiden name, even if she hasn’t used that name for sixty years. She may mention her parents as though they are living. Do not feel the need to correct her. This will cause your loved one unnecessary grief.
When caring for someone who has dementia, always be aware of your body language. Move slowly, smile, and speak softly. This can put them at ease, ensuring they do not see you as a threat. Approach them from the front, taking care not to startle. Use hand motions while explaining what you are about to do, like pretending to take a bite when you ask if they are ready to eat.
How should you handle it if your loved one becomes upset with you, or even belligerent? After ensuring their safety, walk away, giving them time to calm down. They may just need a few moments alone. Then try again, taking a new approach. Do not aim for perfection. For instance, if they’ve put their shirt on backwards, and do not want to turn it around, it’s ok. If they don’t want to brush their hair for one day, it isn’t going to hurt them.
When caring for someone with dementia, prioritizing is a must. Their safety and happiness come first. Have patience, and let them lead when you can. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember that you can make their day better, and that is the goal.
There are many Alzheimer’s support groups available for help through out the country. Take advantage of all of the resources. Remeber that help is available at home, during the day or for short term stays at many Memory Care Communities.