Living with dementia can be frightening, disorienting and noisy. Perhaps the most anxiety-provoking aspect about it is that the people who care for the person living with symptoms often don’t truly understand what the daily experience is like. This can make it challenging for caregivers to connect with those in their care.
To create a space where someone feels understood and safe, it is beneficial for caregivers to attempt to understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of someone living with memory impairment. Here are some of the hurdles they must face throughout the day.
Visual impairment: This can result in a decrease in depth perception, making it difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is a hallucination. Low lighting can cause further difficulties, creating more stress and anxiety for the already-impaired brain while they attempt to process visuals.
Loss of balance: A loss of learned coordination can lead to disorientation, which often results in increased chances of falling or bumping into walls and furniture. This can lead to very serious injuries.
Inability to process information: Having a difficult time processing instructions or questions can create barriers to responding both physically and verbally, which can increase anxiety when attempting to answer questions.
Feeling fear: Seemingly ordinary situations, such as navigating a path to the bathroom or back to a room in the middle of the night, can become terrifying if obstacles are in the way or if a different path has to be taken. This can provoke a feeling of fear even when someone is safe.
Once you understand the journey of someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it’s imperative to use that information to enhance their experience. One of the best ways a caregiver can do this is to minimize the processing of information that can make seemingly simple tasks feel very daunting. To put it simply, do the thinking for them. This means not asking questions if they can be avoided, predicting situations that could pose challenges and offering solutions proactively so they don’t need to find the words for them.
While these are very broad solutions to how to effectively care for someone who is memory impaired, they are important steps toward becoming #dementiaaware. For a deeper look into what it’s like to live with dementia symptoms, I invite you to watch my video, “Inside the Mind of Someone with Dementia,” below.