Interacting with a loved one who has dementia can at times be challenging or confusing. The person you know and love may be behaving differently after a diagnosis of dementia or other forms of memory loss. While you’ll want to avoid conversations that might upset your loved one, it’s important to continue interacting with them in a way that honors who they are as a person. Read on for suggestions from Artis Senior Living on the dos and don’ts of dementia care.
Do Make Eye Contact
Just because your loved one is living with cognitive impairment doesn’t mean you should treat them as if they aren’t there. Using eye contact provides a nonverbal cue that you are there for them, you are listening, and you are acknowledging their thoughts and feelings.
Do Introduce Yourself
If you’re interacting with someone with dementia for the first time, it’s important to introduce yourself. Depending on the stage of dementia a person is in, family members and friends may also need to re-introduce themselves. Don’t get frustrated with your loved one if they can’t recall the name or face of someone they know. Remember, it’s a symptom of the disease.
Do Be Patient
Patience is key when it comes to interacting with those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Understand that your loved one is going to have trouble recalling memories, names, places, and faces. Instead of showing annoyance or sadness, help your loved one get reacquainted with what’s happening in the moment.
Do Be a Good Listener
Those living with dementia may struggle for words. While it’s all right to suggest a word if you can help them, don’t rush your loved one to answer. If you don’t understand what your loved one is trying to say, think about the emotion or intent that may be behind the words they’re using.
Don’t Get Tense
If you’re living with or caring for someone who has dementia, embrace acceptance. Understand that dementia is a progressive disease, and your loved one may not have the same ability or memory they did just yesterday. Although it can be hard to relax knowing your loved one’s condition, it’s important not to get stressed or annoyed with them when they have difficulty with a memory or activity.
Don’t Say, “Do You Remember?”
People who have dementia often have an easier time remembering the distant past than something that happened earlier that day. While they may enjoy talking about memories from their younger years, don’t ask your loved one to recall or detail specific moments. Instead, ask generally about their past to spark conversation.
Don’t Have a Conversation in a Noisy Place
It’s essential to speak clearly and directly with those who have dementia for two reasons. One, people living with dementia often also have hearing loss. Second, when your loved one may already be struggling to recall words or understand what you’re saying, background noise can make for a frustrating distraction that discourages conversation.
Don’t Assume Your Loved One Doesn’t Understand
While your loved one may not be able to do or recall everything they used to, it’s important to include them in conversations about their life or wellbeing. Never talk about someone with dementia as if they aren’t there. Even if your loved one can’t communicate effectively anymore, they may be able to understand more than you think. Always treat them with the dignity and agency they deserve.
Interested to learn more about living with dementia? Visit Artis Senior Living for more tips on senior health, living options, and more.