8 Tips and Tricks for Helping to Interact with Someone Suffering From Dementia

As a person in the middle of their life, you may be dealing with aging parents as well as your own growing family. This is a difficult place in someone’s life. And when it comes time to help your elderly parents into a facility, one that helps them manage their medications, you want the best for them.

No matter what illness has taken over your loved one’s life, you want a dedicated staff that knows how to treat them as individuals. This is especially important when dealing with someone suffering from Dementia.

Here are 8 tips and tricks for helping you to interact with someone suffering from Dementia.

1. Be Patient

Know that your loved one will have good days and bad. These will include times in which they will not know who you are or what you are talking about. They will not always know how to communicate with you.

Practice patience and don’t get frustrated. Give them time to answer a question without rushing them. Stick to one topic at a time. Someone with Dementia can’t follow more than one storyline at a time.

2. Let them be them

If your loved one who has Dementia was living in the past, it’s okay to let them visit there for a while. You don’t need to correct everything they do or say wrong unless they are going to hurt themselves.

If they call you by another name, you can correct them once, but after that, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to be the person they think you are, just go along with what they are saying until you can change the subject.

Remember, it is easier to go into their world rather than force them into yours. If they insist they are a child waiting for their siblings or parents, go along with it. Ask them simple, open-ended questions about the persons they are waiting for.

By validating their memories and not arguing with them, you will help them to remain calm and be less afraid of what is going on inside their mind.

3. Use Clear Language

Speak to your loved one in a calm and clear tone. Do not use “baby talk” or talk down to them. They are an adult and deserve respect. If you get frustrated, and you will ask to be excused for a moment and take a short walk or go get a snack to share with them. Before leaving the room, make sure your loved one is safe or someone else is with them.

They are not going to understand most of what you are saying, and it will not get any better. Many with cognitive impairments become nonverbal and will not understand the simplest of commands towards the end. This is why having a trained staff is paramount to their long-term care.

4. The Good Ole Days

A person with an intellectual issue will not remember what happened to them this morning, but they remembered 50 years ago. Talk about the past, they will feel comfortable with this as most of their memories will not fail them. Even if they get a detail wrong, allow them to keep going.

Ask simple questions they can answer and allow the conversation to build on what they say. Don’t get too caught up in the details. And if they can’t remember, redirect the conversation to something else.

5. Concentrate on Their Feelings

Individuals experiencing Dementia are often unsure of themselves, anxious, nervous, and confused. They may bring up something that never happened to them, but they saw on a television program or read in a book. Don’t try to correct them, rather reassure them that they are fine, that they are being taken care of and that they are loved.

If you concentrate on their feelings and not what they are saying, you will help them relax and ease their nerves. You may even bring some clarity to the moment.

6. Maintain Eye Contact

It is important to maintain eye contact with your loved one. This lets them know you care and are interested in what they have to say. Make sure you have their attention before talking or you will be repeating yourself.

If they are seated, sit with them so you are on their level, never hover above them. Many of the nurses and doctors will get down on their level to talk with them. This is a sign of a good caregiver.

7. Remain Calm

If they get frustrated because they can’t find their words, let them know it’s okay by remaining calm. Don’t get frustrated with them or at them.

To help facilitate a calm atmosphere, remove as many distractions as possible. Turn off the television and move them to a quiet space.

Allow them to find their own words for a moment or two. If they can’t come up with the right word or any words, change the subject or distract them. Try not to stop talking, only when waiting for an answer.

8. Get Help For Yourself

It is hard to care for a loved one with Dementia. You may feel as if you need to be with your parent or relative every day, but you don’t have to be that dedicated. Visit often, but make sure you take care of yourself and your own family.

If you feel yourself getting anxious, depressed, or frustrated too often, seek the help of a professional. Ask the housing facility where your family member is living if they have any groups for relatives of the residents. Speaking to others in the same situation is extremely helpful and allows you an outlet for your feelings.

There is no one way to behave around someone with Dementia, although the main rule is to remain calm and don’t argue with them. Always remember they are an elder person and deserve respect, even if they can no longer give it. They may lash out in frustration, but you don’t have to do the same. You can remove yourself from the situation, but leave your heart open to continue to love them.

Tags: Old Elders, Old Age homes

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