The Do’s and Don’ts of Dementia Care
If you are helping to look after a senior loved one who has dementia, nothing can be as frustrating or as overwhelming as trying to care for this person. You want to do your best to maintain the same relationship and dynamic that you once had, but you also do not want to do anything to overwhelm or offend them. Dementia can be challenging and confusing, and it can be so different for every person and can even change from day to day.
Every person will likely have a different journey and experience with dementia, but here are a few major do’s and don’ts of dementia care.
Do: Make Eye Contact
This is one thing that many people who are dealing with individuals with dementia often forget. It can be easy to feel uncomfortable when interacting with a loved one with cognitive impairment, but you should still make sure that you maintain eye contact. This is an important non-verbal cue that lets seniors know that you are there for them and listening.
You should always try to be as good of a listener as possible when interacting with someone with dementia. Don’t rush your loved one to answer when they struggle for words. Just try to listen, and do your best to follow what they are saying. You can suggest a word to help them, but should never forget about trying to be a good listener and giving them time.
Do: Be Patient
In order to really have successful interactions with someone with dementia, you need to have patience. This is so key when dealing with someone with any type of dementia. Your loved one is going to forget names and places and struggle to recall certain words, or they may act in ways that are completely unrecognizable to you. It can be frustrating, but you need to have patience with them. Losing your patience will not benefit either of you.
Don’t: Try to Talk to Them in a Noisy Place
There is nothing as frustrating for someone with dementia then trying to have a conversation in a noisy place. Background noise is a frustrating distraction, and many seniors with dementia already have hearing loss. When your loved one is already struggling to recall words, background noise is even more frustrating and distracting.
Don’t: Say “Don’t You Remember”
Sometimes seniors with dementia can really struggle to remember things, even things you may think they should remember. However, you shouldn’t say “don’t you remember?” or “do you remember this?” as a way to get them to remember certain things you think they should. This can only make them feel pressured to answer questions, or it may cause them to make up certain things in order to cover up their struggle to remember. Instead, ask general questions about their past as a way to ignite the conversation more naturally.
Keep these “do’s” and “don’ts” in mind for better, more successful interactions with someone with dementia.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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