One of the many challenges of providing comprehensive care to a person with dementia symptoms is overcoming the disconnect that occurs when communication is ineffective. Getting through requires a refined mindset in which the caregiver filters their interactions through a lens that detects and acts upon the everyday experiences of the person who’s memory impaired. This is one aspect of being Dementia Aware.
Being Dementia Aware is also an acceptance that you cannot stop, fix or change symptoms. As a Dementia Aware caregiver, you’ll be better equipped to not only address the common complications of dementia, but also do so while building positive interactions and meaningful moments with the person in your care.
The following practices will close the gap in your understanding of how to effectively approach any caregiving situation so that the person in your care can lead happier and healthier lives.
Share in how they feel
One way for caregivers to build trust with people in their care is to walk in their shoes and constantly express empathy. Imagine how they feel and validate their frustration, fear, misunderstanding or whatever they’re experiencing in the moment. Whatever they feel will be magnified, occupying the bulk of their reality. However, that overwhelming effect can be subsided by connecting with them and trying to see and acknowledge what’s happening on the inside.
Caregivers must understand that too much information can overstimulate and add confusion. Remember, individuals with memory impairment are impacted much more deeply than we realize. Functions that we take for granted, such as body movement and balance, are much more difficult for someone with dementia. As they work to get through their day, an abundance of information can create a distraction. That’s why it’s important to prioritize what information is shared. This practice preserves their bandwidth to proceed with their day as smoothly as possible.
Help them think it through
Simply put, individuals with dementia symptoms have broken thinkers, unable to process bits of information that others do routinely and without much difficulty. Caregivers have the capacity to fill in the gaps and do the thinking for those in their care. This can alleviate their frustration or fear that often arises when they cannot adequately grasp and process information due to their impacted mental faculties.
Despite your best intentions, even the simplest question can create an unfavorable response. People with cognitive impairment cannot always process certain questions, let alone devise an appropriate response. This disconnection can lead to frustration, anger and anxiety.
Lead with positive action statements
As discussed above, questions aren’t always the ideal method for communicating and uncovering information. Positive action statements, however, are disguised as answers to questions. Your statement has the power to prompt the people in your care to engage.
As a straightforward approach, positive action statement leaves out the process of answering questions and replaces that with the clarity of positive language. For instance, instead of asking to fold laundry, you can turn it around and say, “let’s fold the laundry together,” and then proceed with the action followed by praise.
Being Dementia Aware is getting inside the mind of someone with dementia symptoms – and learning how to think for them. In many cases, one of the biggest challenges for caregivers is the lack of education about what they will face during care. Before long, they can feel lost about the interactions they are having because they lack awareness. For example, they can fail to realize that the person under their care is going through audio and visual impairments, the loss of balance and coordination, the inability to process questions or instructions, stress and even hallucinations.
When someone is Dementia Aware, they are uniquely intertwined with the people in their care, with greater awareness about symptoms and the toll they take. Through this perspective of compassion and deep understanding of what’s going on deep inside, caregivers can deliver the type of care they wanted to provide all along.
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