6 Important Dos and Don’ts of Dementia Care
Being a caregiver for a loved one with dementia is difficult for many reasons, but one of the hardest parts for some people is just how confusing it can be. You’ve known and loved this person for years (if not for your entire life), yet you suddenly don’t know how to deal with them – little things that never used to bother them now set them off, and the techniques that used to always work to calm them down are now useless.
It’s a learning process. And one made all the more painful by the fact that you’re having to learn all about how to take care of someone you used to know so well. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you navigate the process of dementia care more successfully.
1. Do pay attention to what works.
Dementia care requires a bit of trial and error. Every time you try something that works – gets them to agree to a bath a little easier, or makes them enjoy the day more – make a note of it. This is a learning process for both of you, but only one of you has the ability to remember what works, so take advantage of that.
2. Do use distraction as a tool.
Sometimes you can use the symptoms of the disease to your advantage. If your loved one is getting worked up about one thing and you can shift their focus to another, they’ll likely completely forget whatever they were upset about. It may feel a little manipulative at first, but you’ll soon realize that what works to keep them more content more of the time is worth doing.
3. Do encourage happy memories and familiar hobbies.
It can be easy to let your caregiving become all about the work – taking care of their basic needs and ensuring the chores get done. It should also be about spending time together and finding opportunities to enjoy life in spite of the illness. Consider it part of your job as caregiver to create moments where you reminisce about things you know they enjoyed in the past and encourage spending time on activities you both enjoy together.
4. Don’t lean too much on reason.
Your loved one is confused. Things just don’t make sense to them the way they used to. Your trying to reason with them won’t help. They’re flooded with feelings and trying to rationalize those away will only make them frustrated and make the situation worse. Focus on their feelings rather than logic.
5. Don’t engage in arguments.
It’s pointless. Again, they’re overwhelmed with feelings and arguing with them will only make it worse. If you feel tempted to argue, leave the room until you cool off. Then try the distraction technique from #2 to get them thinking about something else that won’t agitate them.
6. Don’t take it personally.
You’ll have days where you get your old loved one back as they were before, but more days where they’re easily angered, frustrated, or otherwise not themselves. None of their anger or frustration is your fault. They’re not upset with you, they’re upset with the disease that’s robbed them of their ability to understand and feel comfortable in the world around them. Try to be patient and give yourself breaks. Taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of them.