As people age, certain health problems such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease start to become more common. Another example of an elderly health condition is dementia. Most people have experienced life with an elderly relative struggling with dementia. This can be a challenging illness because it saps the mental strength of fortitude of the patient; however, there are certain tips that everyone should keep in mind when caring for a loved one with dementia.
Communicating with someone who is struggling with dementia can be a challenge because the patient may not remember that they’ve already told a story or they may make up words altogether.
Communication is key because it can help someone preserve the mental function that is still there. It is important that people remember that they shouldn’t interrupt someone while they’re speaking. This can cause them to lose their train of thought and become frustrated with themselves.
Furthermore, make sure to let them know that it’s okay if they pause and try to find their words. Applaud their effort and encourage them to continue with their story. Above all else, remain calm and let the loved one know that they’re the focus of the attention.
A technique we use at our memory care facilities in both Idaho and Colorado is that of “Validation and Redirection.” It is a great way to work through communication problems with your loved one.
It is important to minimize distractions in the room if someone with dementia is present. Try to relax their mind by allowing them to focus on one thing at a time. This means shutting off the TV or radio, especially if they are trying to concentrate. Make sure that only one person is trying to talk to the person at once.
Try to call them by their first name so that they know that they’re talking to them and try to avoid criticizing them if they do something wrong. Remember that they are struggling with a debilitating disease and may not remember to complete all of the tasks that they set out to do. If the person becomes accusatory or negative, try to remain positive and redirect their focus to something else.
Above All, Love and Compassion
The most important point that everyone should remember is that someone with dementia needs love and compassion in their life. If they feel like they no longer have a purpose or people who love them, they will head downhill faster. Try to spend time regularly with the loved one to demonstrate that people care. Try to get them outside and show them that they still have something to live for. Try to talk about important memories that have happened in the past to both remind them of the good times and train their mind to recall those memories. Never give up on someone with dementia. Never stop trying to make them feel included.