Whether you’re a professional caregiver caring for many, a family member caring for a loved one or a community member in a job that regularly interacts with the memory impaired, one of the most important things you can do is become Dementia Aware.
So, what does that mean?
Becoming Dementia Aware means that you have an openness to and understanding of the experiences those with dementia must face every day. It also means knowing that you can’t stop, fix, or change dementia. Being Dementia Aware allows you to have richer and more meaningful interactions with someone dealing with dementia symptoms, which allows you, as a caregiver, to better support them.
Here are five ways that caregivers can become more Dementia Aware so that they can help those with dementia feel safer, more secure and valued.
- Do the thinking for them: It helps to think of people with dementia symptoms as having a “broken thinker,” and an inability to process all of the pieces of data that that are coming to them at any given moment from the world around them. By doing the thinking for them, we can fill in the gaps and limit frustration and fear.
- Avoid asking questions: Answering questions requires an ability to process the question in the first place and when someone doesn’t have this capability, it can cause anxiety. Try to avoid asking questions when possible to eliminate this as a source of anxiety.
- Choose information carefully: Think about how much information is really necessary to share at any given time. Even things that most of us take for granted, such as coordinating body movements and balance, require our minds to process information. Filtering out unnecessary information from a situation will allow your loved one to focus on the task at hand.
- Use positive action statements: If you need to ask a question, think of the answer first. Identify the desired outcome and lead with that, including positive language. For example, instead of asking “Should we fold the laundry?”, try saying, “Let’s fold the laundry together” and commend them for doing so.
- Join them in their feelings: To develop a sense of trust, join those in your care with the feelings they are feeling. This means validating what they’re feeling even if you’re not feeling the same thing. If something is frightening to them, that is their reality. Showing them that it’s OK to feel that way will remove fear and uncertainty in situations.
I go further into all of these strategies in my book, which can be found here.
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