Memory Mondays: The Ins and Outs of Dementia Care

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Dementia care is no easy undertaking. Training on how to relate to someone with memory loss is typically conserved for professional caregivers. Yet family and friends often need some guidance on how to interact with their loved ones who have memory loss.

That’s because gut instincts don’t necessarily yield the best results. Handling those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia tends to be counterintuitive. The right thing to do may be the exact opposite of what you believe to be the right thing to do, according to a Next Avenue article.

Consider this practical advice on dementia care to better relate to loved ones with memory loss.

– Reason, rationality & logic: When we don’t understand the way someone is acting, we gravitate toward explaining the situation to achieve compliance. Someone with dementia doesn’t necessarily respond to such rationale, though, even if it is logical and sound. Straightforward, simple sentences are the way to go in these scenarios.

– Sense of reality: With dementia comes forgetfulness about important things. Someone may forget their spouse has passed away, or they may insist they need to go home. Our intuition may lead us to explain that their husband or wife is deceased, but that means the person with dementia may relive the pain of that loss. We may also reassure our loved ones that they are in fact at home, but that may lead to an argument. Instead, ask questions about the spouse they bring up or their home in an effort to calm them. In dementia care, we must adapt to their reality.

– Impossible perfection: There is never an instance where we can expect ourselves to be perfect. That especially holds true when it comes to dementia care. We must learn that sometimes we will be impatient or frustrated, and that’s entirely okay. Forgiving yourself and your loved one with dementia is crucial as a caregiver especially. It’s also essential to acknowledge that we can’t do it all. Accepting help is entirely okay, as is asking for assistance.

– Dysfunctional agreements: Reminders and agreements don’t work as they usually do when we interact with someone who has dementia. Just as soon we tell them to do something, it’ll likely slip their mind. So, take action instead. Rearrange the environment to accommodate your loved one rather than constantly warn them of a specific danger.

– Doctor updates: The information we relay to doctors is tremendously important. What we see at home is important to our loved ones’ overall health, as it provide doctors with insight into best treatment methods.

– Finding balance: We may believe it’s easier for us to do something for a loved one who has dementia. However, that action can quickly eliminate their independence in that skill. Meanwhile, insisting that a loved one do something on their own when they grow frustrated does nothing more than agitate them. It’s a juggling act to find the balance of what our loved ones can and cannot do, and their abilities may shift each day. Patience and awareness are key in this regard.

– Giving orders: It may be second nature to ask your loved one what they want for dinner or what they would like to do. But in doing so, we may cause our loved one frustration, as they may find it difficult to come up with an answer. By simply telling loved ones who have dementia what the activity or meal is, it encourages them to eat. It also removes the pressure on them to respond.

– Questioning diagnosis: We must always remember that we are responding to a disease, not the person who once was. Sometimes, those with dementia experience moments of tremendous lucidity, but that doesn’t mean the disease has disappeared. Instead of questioning a diagnosis in those moments, we should treasure them as they occur.