One of the most important things to understand about dementia is that it is essential to change the ways in which you care for the person in order to maintain their (and your) quality of life. Putting yourself in their world, rather than trying to bring them back into ours, will give you the opportunity to be a much more effective CAREGiver.
The following techniques can be found in greater detail in Home Instead’s essential dementia care handbook, Confidence to Care: A Resource for Family Carers Providing Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias Care at Home (UK Edition). The handbook also includes many other practical tips for confidently dealing with the most common challenges associated with dementia.
Redirect: Changing the topic of conversation and, in turn, the individual’s mood, creates a more positive atmosphere. If your relative or friend asks the same question multiple times, for example, redirecting the conversation to their favourite topic can stop unhelpful thought patterns.
Apologise: Simply saying “I’m sorry, I misunderstood you” and taking the blame, even when something is not your fault, can often calm down the individual if they are distressed and help them (and you!) move past a difficult or embarrassing situation.
Removal: People can get agitated, upset or overly focused on something in their environment, for example, they may be upset at the fact that there are too many clothes in the wardrobe. Removing distracting and potentially harmful things from the individual or removing the individual from the situation or environment which is distressing or angering them will help them to remain calm and content.
Give simple choices: Individuals with a dementia often feel like they have lost control of their lives and so giving them simple choices, like “Would you like tea or coffee?”, will help them to feel more in control and, in turn, happier.
Engage in meaningful activities: Engaging in mental, physical and social activities has been shown to create positive emotional responses that help to decrease stress and anxiety for people with a dementia. By encouraging the individual to participate in something, even if it’s only answering trivia questions, you are helping increase their sense of purpose and accomplishment.
It is important to recognise that it may take various attempts and approaches before these techniques become truly effective. If a technique does not work first time, it is best to take a step back and try again a few minutes later, taking a different approach.