Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be difficult, especially as they progress through the disease. In the mid to late stages, behavior changes are common. You may notice that your loved one has more angry outbursts, sadness, confusion or paranoia.
How can you help your loved one manage with dementia or Alzheimer’s while also having a positive impact on their mood and well-being?
Here are some dementia dos and don’ts to keep in mind.
- Keep your explanations short. Use language that your loved one can understand.
- Speak with respect and understanding. Your loved one can pick up on your cues.
- Maintain eye contact to keep your loved one’s attention. Before you start speaking, tell them who you are and what you want them to do. It helps to get down to their level where they can see you.
- Use visual cues when appropriate.
- Recognize what your loved one is capable of so that you can make your expectations realistic. If you’re not sure, talk to their doctor about what you can expect.
- Observe your loved one’s behaviors to better understand their nonverbal cues.
- Paraphrase when needed and use a reassuring voice. You want to convey trust and reassurance.
- Speak slowly and use individual words rather than lengthy descriptions or explanations.
- Know when to use touch. Sometimes, it is appropriate to help comfort your loved one. Sometimes it is not.
- Talk to the person in “baby talk” or as if they were a young child. There are ways to talk clearly without being demeaning.
- Use complicated words or phrases. This is not the time to practice your vocabulary.
- Start tasks without explaining what you’re doing first. Walking into your loved one’s room and doing things can make them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
- Have discussions in a distracting environment. Your loved one will have a difficult time concentrating if there are things going on in the background.
- Have unrealistic expectations. It’s common for people to think that their loved one is just being difficult, but often it’s that they can no longer fulfill these expectations.
- Use poor manners such as interrupting, talking over your loved one, shouting or speaking too fast.
Each person is unique, and no two cases of dementia are the same. However, the above dos and don’ts are effective strategies for dealing with many of the communication challenges of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
At the very least, keep in mind that your mood and behavior has a significant impact on your loved one, so try to be calm, patient and understanding, even if you don’t know all the right things to say and do.