If you are caring for somebody with dementia, there are lots of things you will need to learn. The single most important thing is to have patience. That person is losing his memory, but he’s still a human being and a loved one. He’s trying to remember your name, a particular place or the way home. Just give him some help. These tips will guide you in your journey of discovery.
Listen with your heart, ears and eyes. Communication will be a bit different, but have patience as he struggles to tell you what he wants. You can suggest words and watch for the meaning behind what he’s trying to say.
Get his attention. Before you talk, reduce noise and distractions such as the radio or TV. Go to a quieter room if necessary. Make sure he knows you want to talk to him and that he is ready to try to understand. Maintain eye contact.
Ask short, easy questions. Yes or no questions are the easiest ones, followed by multiple choice questions. Does he want the blue or white shirt? Let him choose form the two items in your hands. Does he want to watch TV? Let him nod or shake his head.
Be positive. Be happy in your voice, your facial expressions and your body language. A smile can say so much, especially to a person which is trapped in a body that won’t respond. Even a gentle touch of your hand can help a lot.
Be clear in what you are asking. Use short sentences with easy words. Talk slowly and clearly. Do not raise your voice. If he doesn’t understand, repeat your sentence or question again. If that doesn’t work, find another way to ask what you want to know.
Past memories are vivid. While he might not remember what he had for breakfast that morning, he will clearly recall his wedding day, or the place where he worked for 37 years. Avoid asking questions that have to rely on his short-term memory. Use long-term memory whenever you can, because that’s where he will most likely react.
Your sense of humor is essential. Most people relate to humor as long as you are not laughing at your loved one. Even those with dementia will enjoy a good laugh where possible, because they usually retain their ability to socialize.
Affection and reassurance are the keys to success. People who have dementia are often times anxious, unsure and confused. They may remember things that never actually happened. Don’t try to tell them that they are incorrect. Just focus on what they feel, and respond with a comforting touch or smile.
Break tasks down into steps. It is much easier to complete tasks if you break them down into easy steps and do them one by one. If you remind him of something that he has forgotten, he may remember the next step on his own.
If you are going to be a caregiver to somebody with dementia, you must COMMIT or don’t bother. There is no point in doing it until it gets too hard, because that’s just the point at which they will need you the most. Commit or quit! It is up to you.