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Dos & Don'ts of Dementia

June 13, 2017

Not that there are rules for Dementia but there are some general guidelines to help families and caregivers understand their family or resident and this is a general guide of what to do and what not to do. There are about eight guidelines so let us count them down.

Guideline #8- Don't Argue instead Accept

This one is a hard one to get at first but it is important if a loved one says that the sky is orange then the sky is orange that day. When people try and argue with the resident that the sky isn't orange all it does is frustrate and confuse the resident. More than likely the resident will forget they said it was orange in the first place, in this disease what matters is not facts but feelings. So being 'right' is less important that their peace and contentment. 

Guideline #7- Never Demand always Encourage

Behavior changes are common in dementia and Alzheimer's, instead of saying "stay here while I take the trash out," try saying "If you could stay here while I take the trash out, that would really help." This assures the resident that it would be helpful and they can help since most people with the disease do not feel they can help people. It can make a world of difference to people asking things rather than telling them to do something.

Guideline #6- Never Condescend, Always Empathize

As the disease grows the loved one becomes more dependent on caregivers to help with day to day activities that they use to be able to do so easily. So when a loved one makes a simple mistake they should say "it's okay, that happens sometimes. We can fix it." If someone puts the loved one down it can only worsen the disease and send the person into depression or behavior problems.

Guideline #5- Never Correct or Admonish, Always Repeat

It is difficult when people have to repeat themselves multiple times but with this disease it is common. "I have told you that you need to add the milk and eggs first," this can be insulting to the loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia but by saying, "let's go through the steps again together -- that helps me understand what to do next." This reassures the loved one this happens to the caregiver sometimes too and can be encouraging to the person as well.

Guideline #4- Never Lecture, Always Reassure

This comes into play during medicine, the family member affected with dementia may not want to take their pill, it could even be they don't think they need it anymore. Instead of the caregiver saying "the doctor said to take your medicine so your taking it," the better idea would be "here is your favorite juice to take your pill, you seem to be doing better."

Guideline #3- Never Reason, Always Divert

The thought process of someone with dementia is much different from someone not affected with the disease, they are confused easily and are frustrated. "The doctor said you can't drive so let me," this sounds demanding and can be harmful and irritate the loved one instead try "What a beautiful day to take a drive through the park. I know the way." This shifts the focus from any point of confrontation and relieves the stress from the loved one.

Guideline #2- Never say Remeber, Always Reminisce

Alzheimer's and dementia is memory loss so when families say remember it can put stress on the resident if they don't remember. Instead of saying "Remeber that summer..." try "I love the summer because we use to..." or you can ask questions like "do you like summer time at the beach?" This can help jog their memory too.

Guideline #1- Never Shame, Always Distract

This can be used in all of the above situations and is a good tactic for people in general. Scolding or shaming someone with dementia can only make things worse instead there should be encouragement a good example would be at a grocery store. To prevent wandering or grabbing random objects from the shelf caregivers can ask "will you push the cart so I can check the list?" This gives them something to do and can make them feel helpful too.

Everyone varies person to person but hopefully, this helps caregivers and can help anyone. These tactics can be used on all people but it is important to remember with people who have memory loss disease such as dementia.

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