6 Important Dos and Don’ts of Dementia Care6 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.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

2 Comments

  1. Nonie Gustafson January 17, 2017 Reply

    I have a friend who’s wife has Dementia. and he has just been dx with Cancer of the stomach/colon and been told there is no treatment for him due to his age and his heart. his wife has dementia and is very combative. he has had her baker acted and they admitted her but let her out the next morning and he has no idea how she got home. He is staying with one of his son’s. He can simply not take care of her. Last night she dialed 911 and they came and took her to the hospital. He has tried everything, he is not supposed to be under stress so where can he go for help ?? please email your reply to [email protected]. he really needs some help in getting her taken care of. Thank You Nonie.

  2. Amelia Willson January 23, 2017 Reply

    Hello Nonie, I wanted to let you know you might want to pass along our information to your friend. SeniorAdvisor.com works with A Place for Mom, the largest senior living referral agency in the country. With our free service he can be paired with a senior living advisor in his local area to help him decide what the care options are for him and his wife.

    Here is their phone number: 1-800-805-3621

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