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Top 10 Ways of Interacting with a Person with Dementia – Understanding Their Behaviors

Statistics reveal that someone somewhere in the world develops dementia every 4 seconds. While approximately 48 million people were living with dementia on this planet in 2015, the number saw a hike to 53 million in 2017. Reports and studies predict this number to double in the coming two decades, reaching 76 million in 2030 and 134 million in 2050. The major part of this staggering hike will be seen in developing countries as the fastest growth in baby boomers is taking place in India, China, and their western Pacific neighbors.

Demographic aging is proof of the success of enhanced health care past the last century. Most seniors are now living longer, and not only that, but they’re also leading happier and healthier lives as compared to previous centuries. Dementia affects only the senior population though there has been seen a raising awareness in a few cases that even start before the age of 65 years. These figures are working as a catalyst in the growth of elderly home care services all over the world.

Dealing with the behavioral challenges of dementia patients – A word of advice

Mid-stage dementia leads to the later stage, and this stage presents several behavior issues that have to be taken care of by the caregiver. The confusion, anger, sadness, paranoia, and fear associated with this disease lead to aggressive and sometimes violent actions. One of the most upsetting aspects of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is facing communication difficulties. However, once you familiarize yourself with the common instances that may arise when you take care of a dementia patient, dealing with it becomes easier. Here are a few situations to take note of:

Situation #1: Words or actions showing aggression

‘I want to go out,’ ‘I don’t want to eat’ are some examples of statements that you may hear from a dementia patient. The Alzheimer’s Association says that the most vital thing that you should keep in mind about physical and verbal aggression is that s/he is not doing it purposely. Either environmental factors or physical and mental discomfort triggers such aggressive actions. There are even times when aggression triggers out of extreme fear. The caregiver should try to recognize the cause behind such actions and gradually shift his focus to some other deed. Talk to him/her in a calm and composed manner and make sure you have a reassuring tone.

Situation #2: Lack of judgmental skills

You will find a dementia patient unnecessarily accusing anyone in the house for stealing money or other valuables. You will also find him/her facing difficulty in calculating the tip for a restaurant bill due to the damage of the brain cells caused by Alzheimer’s, which leads to errors in thoughts and a lack of judgmental skills. The caregiver has to determine the extent of this problem. If s/he is struggling with checkbook payments or calculating the bill of the restaurant, interfere in the problem and try to solve it. This will minimize their embarrassment and frustration in public places.

Situation #3: Utter confusion about time and place

A dementia patient will always want to go home, doubt whether or not he is sitting inside his house, and often ask you when s/he is leaving or the reason why they are at someplace. One of the most common reactions among dementia patients is the constant urge to go home, as that seems to be the safest place for them. Due to the progressive damage that is done to mental functioning, there is constant memory loss and confusion about things.

The caregiver can go for simple and polite explanations of how things are, use photos or other tangible reminders. If things get out of control, you can either hire an in home dementia care sunshine coast or move the person to a senior living facility.

Communication strategies with a dementia patient – 10 ways to interact

When you take up the responsibility of caring for a dementia patient, whether your parent or grandparent, you have to accept several challenges that come with it. People with this neurological brain disease have a progressive brain disorder, which makes it tough for them to remember small things, communicate with others, think properly, and even take care of their own selves. Moreover, dementia can also lead to mood swings that alter a person’s behavior and personality. We are going to help you with 10 dealing strategies that can help you communicate with a dementia patient in an appropriate way.

1 The mood of the conversation should be positive

Your body language and attitude can communicate all your thoughts and feelings in a better way than your words. Once you start dealing with a person suffering from dementia, you have to keep your calm no matter what and speak to him/her in a respectful and pleasant tone. In order to convey your message in a better way, you can use your tone of voice, facial expressions, and also physical touch as these can let you show affection in a better way.

2 Grab the attention of your loved one

When you speak with your loved one who is suffering from dementia, make sure you shut down all sorts of distractions. If there is a loud TV switched on or a radio that’s giving you news, switch them off. Shut down the door, draw the curtains and move off to quieter places. Before you start speaking with them, try to seek his total attention. Address him/her by his name or relations, touch to keep him focused on you and use nonverbal cues. Maintain eye contact; sit down if needed.

3 Ask simple questions that have straightforward answers

Dementia patients get confused due to the damage to their brain cells and hence telling them too many things at once can confuse them. Refrain from shooting too many questions at a time and rather ask them one question at a time. Don’t give them too many choices, like asking them whether they wish to wear a blue shirt or a black shirt or a white one. With so many choices, they may get confused. It is rather better on your side to give them visual prompts by showing them the shirts so that they can distinguish between colors.

4 Messages and statements should be clear and short

Words and sentences that you use should be simple and clear. Speak in a clear voice, distinctly, slowly and with a reassuring tone. No matter how your loved one may express his/her fear or anger, don’t raise your voice louder or higher. Maintain a low pitch throughout. They may not get what you said for the first time; you may use the same words to repeat what you said. Still, if he finds it difficult to catch your words, try rephrasing.

5 Listen with your eyes and ears and feel with your heart

As soon as you ask him something, he won’t be able to give you an instant reply. You have to keep your patience in waiting for the reply of your loved one. If you find your loved one desperately searching for words, you may even suggest a few words. Watch out for what his body language says and look forward to grasping nonverbal cues so that you can respond in the right manner. Strive hard to listen to the feelings and meanings that lie under his words. Unless you listen with your heart, this step is impossible for you.

6 Redirect and distract him when things get tough

If she constantly fails to understand what you’re trying to say, she may soon get agitated and irritated. You have to instantly handle this matter with ease by changing the total subject of discussion. Ask her whether or not he wishes to go out for a walk or whether she needs help in something. Remember that before you redirect the conversation, it is important to connect with your loved one. Apologize if your words were upsetting and ask whether she would let you take him out for dinner.

7 Categorize activities into steps

If you can break down steps, smaller tasks become much more manageable. While you have to motivate your ailing family member to complete a few tasks, you also have to remind him of the steps that he might as well forget. Help with filling those steps that he is not able to attain on his own. Leveraging visual cues is always more helpful as they work better for their damaged brain cells.

8 Remind him/her of the good old past

How about sitting with him and helping him reminisce about the past? For a person who is all set to forget things, this can always be a soothing activity as he’ll be reminded of the pleasant things about himself. People with dementia often don’t remember what they did an hour ago, but they can often remember what happened 30 years ago. So, steer clear of questions that deal with short-term memory; rather, deal with things that occurred long ago. All those details might be preserved clearly inside the brain.

9 Have an affectionate tone

People who are suffering from dementia usually feel unsure about their self-worth and feel anxious or confused at the same time. As they’re mostly not able to remember small details, they get frustrated with themselves. Don’t ever convince them to make them believe that they’re wrong, as this can have an opposite reaction in them. Instead, hold hands, hug them, touch them, and respond to them affectionately whenever he fails.

10 Retain your sense of humor

Whenever possible, you can use humor but never at the cost of the dementia patient. People who have dementia are usually successful in retaining their social skills, provided they get the necessary support from their caregivers. Hence, they are delighted to laugh with you if they find something really funny.

Prevent your dementia patient from wandering away

People who have dementia usually have a habit of walking aimlessly due to several reasons like side-effects of medicines, boredom, or to look for someone or something. They might even be trying their best to quench their thirst or hunger or urge to use the toilet. It is not easy to identify the reason that triggered wandering. Here are a few tips to keep your loved one from wandering.

  • Take out time for working out daily as this can reduce restlessness
  • Mask the door with either a streamer or a curtain and try adding a ‘STOP’ sign and a ‘DO NOT ENTER’ sign.
  • Install new locks everywhere that need a key so that the person is not able to unlock the door on his own. Many people are suffering from dementia who don’t choose to look beyond their eye level, and you can capitalize on this fact.
  • Paint a black space on the front porch so that it can seem to be an impassable hole for the person with dementia.
  • Add plastic covers to all the doorknobs and take precautions like you have a child at home.
  • Install a home security system like a camera so that you can keep a close watch over someone living with dementia. Thanks to the advancement in the field of technology, there are new digital devices that can be worn or clipped on to the belt of a person with dementia. These wearable devices use GPS or a global positioning system to trace the whereabouts of the person and locate him whenever he wanders off to an unfamiliar place.
  • Keep aside essential items like wallet, the person’s coat, or his glasses so that he can’t go out of the house without these things.
  • Make your loved one wear an ID bracelet, or you can even sew ID labels on to the clothes they wear. Keep a current photo of your family member in case you need to report about the person when he goes missing.

Therefore, if you are a caregiver of a person who is going through the middle or later stages of this disease of forgetfulness, keep the above-mentioned points in mind. It’s how you can avoid losing your calm and yet take proper care of the person.

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