All of us, including those with dementia, have a desire to maintain control over our lives. For people with dementia, this desire becomes increasingly difficult to navigate and often leads to frustration and anger. As CAREgivers we have the potential to comfort frustration in our loved ones. Understanding a few facts about dementia will contribute to our success.
Limited verbal communication does not equal limited cognition for dementia clients. People with dementia often lose the ability to formulate thoughts into speech long before they lose the ability to shape logical judgments. Many early dementia clients have vivid ideas and desires but are unable to express them verbally. Understanding this fact can help us grow determination for meeting minds with our loved one, showing them our desire to understand them goes a long way toward reassuring hurt feelings.
The desire to “go home” is common for people with dementia because home is a place of security and comfort. Being in unfamiliar surroundings often triggers fear and an urgent desire to return home. We can comfort this fear by validating the feelings, explaining the current plan and sharing the time frame for returning home. Speak as though your loved one understands you, because they often do. Use your eyes to convey love, understanding and partnership.
In people with dementia, phrases like “You can’t,” “You need to,” and “I told you,” can make a tough situation worse. As caregivers we are partnering not parenting, we seek agreement, we don’t make demands. Choosing our words carefully shows our loved one that we appreciate the dignity they have earned. Phrases like “Can we please try to…,” “Is it ok if we…,” and “I do understand that you want to…” all provide comfort when delivered with heartfelt compassion. CAREgivers have the power to respond to loved one in ways that uphold their sense of dignity, which will almost certainly lead to defused frustration.
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