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How to deal with dementia

Contributed by Christine Binney

Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to impair a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all cases. Common symptoms of dementia are problems with short-term memory and the ability to concentrate, with symptoms usually progressing rapidly over time.

Understanding how to care for someone with dementia can be difficult for anyone. You are exploring uncharted territory with your friend or loved one. It can be a scary and confusing time for both of you. To make the journey a bit less stressful, follow these do’s and don’ts when dealing with dementia.

Relationship
Do come to terms with the fact that your relationship with the dementia patient is going to change over time.

Don’t assume that just because the relationship is different, it can’t be fulfilling and meaningful. You can still enjoy time together in ways that bring you closer.

Daily tasks
Do find subtle ways to step in when a dementia patient needs help that they may not be ready to ask for. Many dementia patients refuse to seek help in performing daily tasks that have become difficult due to their decreased mental functionality. This can be based on fear, pride, or a need to maintain control. Tasks that used to be second nature to them, like balancing a checkbook or taking medication, may become difficult to manage. If you notice that things are slipping, gently ask if you can help out. Rather than focusing on the person’s incompetence, focus on the difficulties of the task itself. For instance, instead of blaming your loved one for overdraft fees on a bank account, tell them that the bank may have made a mistake and that the paperwork is confusing. Offer to help them navigate the process.

Don’t bombard someone who is dealing with dementia by providing a long list of all the tasks that they have floundered with. Don’t question their ability to handle a situation outright or else they’ll become embarrassed and frustrated which will put them on the defensive.

Aggressive behavior
Do remain calm when you encounter aggressive behavior. People with dementia may exhibit hostile speech or actions in response to feeling confused, helpless or scared. Use what you know about the person to try and understand the feelings that are making them behave in such a way. Work to de-escalate the situation by calmly shifting the focus.

Don’t engage in an argument or be contradictory. Don’t correct everything a dementia patient says to you, as the accuracy of the information is not as important as the thought or feeling they are trying to convey. Don’t forget that this aggressive behavior is not deliberate, but is often just a symptom of the dementia.

Therapeutic lies
Do understand that honesty is not always the best policy when dealing with dementia. Sometimes, “therapeutic lies” or fibs are the best course of action when dealing with dementia patients. It may seem counterintuitive to lie to your loved one, but it may keep them from experiencing mental anguish, anxiety and confusion. For instance, a patient with dementia may ask where their spouse is daily, constantly forgetting that he or she passed away years ago. Instead of opening up old wounds every time the subject is brought up, a caregiver may simply say that the spouse is out at the store. It is not always necessary for a dementia patient to be grounded in reality.

Don’t try to reason with patients in the middle to late stages of dementia, as they have lost their sense of logic. Figure out what is going to make the dementia patient feel the safest, even if that is a therapeutic lie instead of the truth.

Respect
Do remember to always treat someone with dementia with respect. Many patients have a fragile sense of self-worth, so it’s even more important to treat them with courtesy. Use their name when speaking to and about them, include them in conversations, don’t talk over their heads, and respect their privacy.

Don’t talk like they aren’t in the room, scold or criticize, invade their privacy, or brush their feelings aside.

Self care
Do take care of yourself. When you are providing care for someone with dementia, you will experience a physical and emotional toll on your body. Caregivers of dementia patients often report sleep deprivation, poor eating and exercise habits, and postponement of their own medical appointments. Remember that caregivers operate best when their own needs are taken care of. It’s like the common in-flight adage which says to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others with theirs.

Don’t let your stress get out of control. There is no denying that caring for a loved one with a disease like dementia is extremely stressful, but if you find you are regularly experiencing severe signs of stress, then speak with your doctor immediately.

Respite
Do rely on friends, family members and service providers for respite care. Check out the post How to Reserve Time for Respite to understand how Lotsa Helping Hands can be used to schedule much-needed breaks.

Don’t shoulder the burden alone. It’s important to take time for yourself to rest and recharge.

Hope
Do remember that while certain types of dementia don’t have a cure, there are still treatments available that may improve symptoms. Medications and non-drug therapies can both be successful in dealing with dementia.

Don’t give up hope. Increased research funds and clinical studies can lead the way to effective new treatments.

How to deal with dementia

While one of the main symptoms of dementia is memory loss, dementia is more than forgetfulness. Dementia caregivers know all too well that dementia brings with it a number of other symptoms and side effects that can make caregiving a difficult journey. Take a closer look at what some of these symptoms are and how you, as a caregiver, can cope with them while compassionately caring for your loved one.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that affect memory, thinking and social abilities, and interfere with activities of daily living. And, while dementia often involves memory loss, experiencing memory loss or cognitive impairment does not necessarily indicate the presence of dementia.

Dementia symptoms vary greatly from person to person and different types of dementia will manifest itself in different symptoms. Generally speaking, dementia symptoms are cognitive and psychological.

Cognitive Effects of Dementia

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating or remembering words
  • Difficulty problem-solving or making decisions
  • General confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty planning
  • Disorganization
  • Reduction in coordination

Psychological Effects of Dementia

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Agitation
  • Sleep issues
  • Wandering

8 Tips for Coping with Difficult Dementia Behaviors

Any of these symptoms can make caregiving difficult – especially to a loved one watching their loved one suffer and change as the disease progresses. As dementia progresses through early-stage, mid-stage, and late-stage the role of the caregiver will also progress, becoming increasingly holistic in nature.

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How to deal with dementia

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1. Create a Peaceful Environment

Use calm, subtle colors to decorate, turn off unnecessary noise from a TV and reduce clutter. Simplifying your environment can help your loved one relax and feel less overwhelmed and confused.

2. Limit Communication

It may not be necessary to tell your loved one things that will cause them stress or despair and it will save you from repeating yourself again and again. Try to live in their reality and promote peace.

3. Promote Physical Exercise

Ask your doctor about appropriate exercises to help your loved one get in at least 20 minutes per day of cardiovascular exercise. Physical exercise can stimulate circulation to the brain and reduce stress, helping your loved one cope with overwhelming feelings of disorientation and confusion.

4. Know Your Medication Options

When it comes to certain side effects like hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety, medications can sometimes help. Talk to a medical professional about options for your loved one.

5. Ask for Help From a Professional

There are memory care communities, respite care, and adult day care options for seniors with dementia. Doing your research and finding a place where your loved one is cared for well can give you time to re-energize and rest while your loved one is participating in meaningful and engaging activities that promote a sense of purpose.

6. Speak Simply

This may seem obvious but not stating your message clearly can result in confusion. Use simple words and sentences to get your point across clearly.

7. Practice Remembrance

While your loved one may not be able to recall short-term memories, many people living with dementia can remember what their lives were like when they were younger. Replaying popular music from their youth or asking questions about their distant past may help redirect them and bring them joy in a difficult time.

8. Know That You’re Doing Your Best

Dementia caregiving is extremely demanding and stressful. Take solace in the fact that you are caring for your loved one in a special way. Focus on the good times, be patient and understanding through the tough times, and know that you are not alone in your journey.

What dementia caregiving tips have worked for you? Share them with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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  • December 9, 2019
  • Amy Cook
  • Posted in CaregivingHealth & WellnessMental Wellness

How to Deal with Dementia Denial: 5 Smart Strategies

Written by Dr. Amy Osmond Cook

Originally Published in Caring.com author | Last updated: December 2019

I’m known in my family as the “forgetful kid.” As the oldest of five children, I’ve had plenty of things to occupy my mind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost my keys, forgotten it was my turn for carpool or misplaced my purse. I attribute my absent-mindedness to leading a busy life. But for millions of Americans, what appear to be normal memory lapses can develop into Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Researchers at Rush Medical Center in Chicago estimate that about half of people who reach 85 years old will experience dementia. And of those who develop the disease, 60 percent will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In fact, experts predict that by the year 2050, 30 million Americans will be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Doctors can’t pinpoint for certain what causes dementia, but its prevalence is a growing financial and emotional hardship for people whose loved ones suffer from it. The Alzheimer’s Association, estimates that Alzheimer’s patients receive over 18 billion hours of unpaid care, usually provided by a family member. Family caregivers must also deal with the emotional challenges often associated with the decline of someone they love.

Knowing that your loved one has dementia is difficult enough, but when that person refuses to accept their changing needs and abilities, it creates an even greater burden on the family. Sometimes it’s the caregiver who refuses to accept the declining behavior of a loved one, but more often, it is the person with dementia who fails to see the warning signs.

If you’re caring for someone with dementia who is in denial about it, or are possibly in denial yourself, the five following steps can help you move forward.

  1. Talk about it.

Open communication among family and close friends is essential for designing a cohesive support system and strategy to deal with your loved one’s illness. For some family members, the realization that their loved one’s condition won’t improve can trigger feelings of guilt or anger, which should be shared and resolved.

Others may be concerned about the financial strain of care. By facilitating a frank discussion about shared responsibilities and concerns, family and friends can eliminate any misunderstandings and reinforce a united, supportive front to provide their loved one with the care he or she needs.How to deal with dementia

This is easier said than done. A close friend of mine is currently experiencing dementia denial. She knows, logically, that her husband’s mind is impaired—but her heart is not ready to accept it. Truly accepting that her spouse has dementia means accepting the fact that their marriage is fundamentally changing. She still loves him, but she is moving into a caregiver role with different expectations—and that is not easy to do. As a friend, my job is to understand, support and encourage without pushing or judging her actions. I am here to help her talk about it and resolve it in her own way

2. Set up a reminder system.

During the early onset of dementia, your loved one may be quick to blame his or her forgetfulness on other people or circumstances. Rather than making matters worse with accusations, encourage your loved one to adopt a reminder system. Author and Alzheimer’s caregiving expert Paula Spencer Scott suggests placing a large calendar in a central location in the home. You can then add important dates, phone numbers, and other reminder cues for your loved one to see.

  1. Spend time together in person.

During the early stages of dementia, small tweaks like using a pillbox for medications or stocking the refrigerator with prepared meals may be adequate, but, as mental faculties decline, your loved one may become more restless, agitated, confused or uncooperative. As a non-confrontational way to check on your loved one, you may want to schedule a visit to exercise, garden or even dance together.

These types of activities may provide the added benefit of slowing the progression of dementia. “Studies show regular exercise can slow the progression of dementia,” says Jennifer Orr, RN, Director of Nursing Services at Parke View Rehabilitation and Care Center in Burley, Idaho. While you’re with your loved one, you can dispense medication, prepare a meal or straighten up their home.

  1. Avoid arguments.

Trying to convince loved ones to acknowledge that they’re in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s is almost impossible. Abstract arguments aren’t helpful. But calmly expressing concerns about recent events, such as a traffic accident, excessive purchases, weight loss due to lack of eating, or hygiene issues is a more constructive way to encourage changes. Regardless of whether your loved one accepts the diagnosis, you can help ensure that he or has protective measures in place.

Sometimes, people with dementia may become agitated in public places. Unless they’re causing harm to themselves or others, it’s also best not to engage in an argument. Do what you can to soothe and calm your loved one, and walk away if you need to. Especially in the early stages of dementia, it may be embarrassing to go out in public and cause a scene. But I know from experience that people tend to be understanding and sympathetic.

  1. Rely on automation.

Regardless of whether a loved one can come to terms with the changes to his or her health, setting up automated payments to their bank account along with an allowance that limits access to additional funds can help lower the risk of fraud, hoarding or overspending. Your loved one likely views paying bills as a sign of independence and may resent the change. But if presented in a positive way, he or she may come to appreciate the time saved. The key is to replace things you are removing from your loved one’s routine with positive additions. In this case, you can emphasize that your loved one doesn’t have to worry about finances. Instead, he or she can focus on enjoying time with friends and family.

Dementia can challenge even the most loving and supportive of relationships, especially when you and your loved one are not ready to face the road ahead. While you may not know what lies ahead, designing an encouraging and positive support system lets your loved one know that you’ll be there every step of the way.

Photos/Art by Pexels and “Dementia” by fellow Silver Sager, Obereg Svetlana (Italy)

I have a neighbor who lives two doors away. She is in her early 80’s or so and has always been a little odd. We have ‘known’ each other for ten years and her reputation is that of having always been difficult. Lately, though, she seems to have singled me out and approaches me or stops her car to talk to me if I am outside in my yard talking with another neighbor. She will act peeved that I don’t drop what I’m doing and engage with her, although I really do barely know her. The other day when I was walking my dogs, she ran out of her house and asked me “are we ok?” “are you ok?” “where do you go to breakfast?” “we need to go out together”, etc. I suggested we go, the three of us, for something to eat with another neighbor whom I thought was sort of a friend and who is a good friend of mine. She began saying this other person owed her money (I talked to the other woman who is a good friend who explained how ‘crazy’ this lady is and this is not so and I do believe her), rolled her eyes about her and clearly didn’t want to do that. She also recently got married to an elderly man who had been living with her for a while. I suggested then that maybe ‘the four of us’ (my husband, her husband and we) go out to eat together. She said she just wants to ‘leave them at home and we can call them later’. I said, well, we’ll see and then another neighbor drove up and it broke up her ability to engage me. I told her I had to go inside. As I said, I barely know her but she clearly has dementia and at the same time, seems very manipulative and smart enough to ‘triangulate’ situations. I am feeling stalked in a way. She will drive down the street, see me, and stop and roll down her windows and just kind of stare at me, waiting for me to say something. I keep it short and polite and keep walking most of the time. I do not want to be cruel or rude to her but I also do not want to encourage her. She seems hell bent on us being friends and I have never given out the signal that I want that. Not sure how to handle this. I have been thinking about talking her her husband but I don’t know him either and just by virtue of the fact that they recently married, I doubt he thinks she’s mentally not ‘there’. Other than hiding in my house I don’t know what to do with this. I really do not want to go ‘out’ with her and will have to just tell her that, I guess.

That moment the doctor tells you, I’m sorry, but you have Dementia

How to Deal with Dementia

As mentioned, there’s no black and white manual for dealing with dementia. Depending on the cause of one’s symptoms, a different approach may be required. Within the earlier stages, individuals may still be fairly independent and this is the time to arrange for future arrangements regarding care, finances, and legal arrangements.

Once an individual reaches the mid-to-late stages, behavioral symptoms can be challenging. Although confusion and fear are common symptoms, individuals may also become violent and aggressive. Learning how to properly deal with these situations is very important. Although it’s tough to generalize cases of dementia and the required care, there are most certainly dos and don’ts.

The first thing you should do as a carer, is educate yourself regarding dementia, possible symptoms, and expected changes within one’s personality and behavior. This can help you prepare yourself so that you’re not shocked when something out of the ordinary happens. When you familiarize yourself with some of the most common possibilities, you can respond in a calmer, more effective manner.

Common Situations and How to Respond

When it comes to dementia, communication is a major barrier. It can be challenging to understand what it is that your loved one wants. Often, individuals will not want to do something which can lead to aggressive behavior. What you need to understand, is that your loved one is not being difficult on purpose.

Dementia causes changes in the brain and in most cases, individuals are acting out based on fear. Perhaps they’re in a new environment or they’re in pain and aren’t able to express themselves. The best possible thing you can do in these types of situations is examine the potential cause of their challenging behavior.

The absolute worst thing you can do is argue with them or use an aggressive tone back. You will not get anywhere and you could actually make the situation worse. As long as their safety isn’t at risk, approach the situation in a calm manner. In some cases, individuals respond best when you walk away for a moment, allowing them to calm down.

If you notice that your loved one is making errors in paying bills or balancing their checkbook, for instance, you should be encouraging and reduce their feelings of embarrassment. Handle situations in a way that will make them more willing to admit that they’re experiencing challenges and that perhaps your help would be beneficial.

Keep a journal of the most problematic behaviors and any possible underlying causes. Where were you when the behavior began? What types of distractions were around? What time of day was it? Keep records and then make an appointment with your loved one’s doctor.

If you find that you do not know how to handle the challenges you’re facing, seek assistance. Whether you join a support group, hire a professional Caregiver

How to deal with dementia

Viewing the holidays through the lens of Alzheimer’s disease can seem to be anything but merry and bright. Family may perhaps be overwhelmed with caregiving responsibilities, and the disruption to routine can result in additional distress for a senior learning how to deal with dementia at the holidays.

Yet, with a bit of creative thinking and adjustment of expectations, the holiday season can provide meaning and fulfillment to individuals who will be factoring in dementia this year. Family Smartcare’s skilled Alzheimer’s care professionals provide the following advice:

  • It is important to take time for self-care. First and foremost, it’s crucial for family caregivers to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to give the best care for their loved one – and to avoid caregiver burnout. Assign a certain time period every day for an uninterrupted pleasant activity along the lines of curling up near the fireplace to read, writing in a journal, doing exercises, engaging in a favorite pastime, walking the dog, etc.
  • Have the senior participate in an activity. Come up with holiday tasks and fun-filled activities that are in line with the senior’s current ability level and interest, and include him or her in taking an active part in the celebration. A few ideas include making holiday crafts such as paper snowflakes, assisting with gift wrapping, hanging up decorations, or rolling/cutting out/decorating cookies.
  • Commit to spending quality time together. There’s beauty in just being in the presence of one’s aging loved one, with no expectations or responsibilities. Gather up a couple of soft, warm quilts, put on some calm holiday tunes, and snuggle up on the sofa with picture albums to reminisce. Sometimes the simplest of memories come to be some of those we treasure the most.
  • Forgive yourself. There will likely be occasions when you react to a difficult behavior in your family member with much less patience than you’d have liked, and the ensuing feelings of guilt can be too much to handle. It’s imperative that you learn from mistakes, forgive yourself, and determine to deal with things in a different way next time. Enlisting assistance from a reputable caregiving team that specializes in dementia care, such as Family Smartcare, can alleviate a great deal of stress for family caregivers, allowing them to enjoy much-needed time away from care obligations.

Family Smartcare can help in so many ways by supplying the trusted care for seniors with Alzheimer’s that enables family members to thoroughly enjoy the holidays together. Whether it’s only for a couple of hours each week to permit family caregivers a break, full-time, around-the-clock supervision and care, or something in between, we provide a free in-home consultation to determine how to best enhance quality of life for the elderly with Alzheimer’s. Contact us to learn more about our home care.

One characteristic of those suffering from dementia is that they tend to repeat questions and stories and repeat them often. This can be frustrating for the caregiver and for those who spend time with the senior.

Here are some tips for addressing these repetitions and making the time spent with your loved one more enjoyable.

Understanding Dementia & Short-term Memory

Understanding what your loved one is going through is the best starting place. In the early stages of dementia, seniors may begin to have difficulty in recalling and storing information; their ability to remember various bits of information will vary from moment to moment and day to day.

This behavior relates to short-term memory, which involves one’s ability to recall information for a relatively short amount of time (such as a few seconds). In many cases, only a few things—approximately 5-9—can be recalled at once; after that, the information fades from memory. For example, when you look up a phone number, you may repeat it to yourself until you dial the number. did you remember all of the digits correctly? How long did you retain the phone number in your head? That’s an example of short-term memory.

Affirm Your Loved One’s Feelings & Give Them Something To Do

When your loved one asks the same question over and over again or repeats the same phrase or story, the caregiver can do several things. First, acknowledge what your loved says and use some of their words to affirm their feelings; then, try to change the subject by telling them something or divert their attention by giving them something else to do.

If you can offer a task that they can do successfully (e.g., fold clothes, match socks, sort silverware, clip coupons), they will undoubtedly feel good as they are doing something constructive and helping out. Or, you could suggest listening to their favorite songs and encourage them to recognize the singers or the titles. Any activities that involve music are especially helpful as music-related recollection is one skill that dementia patients generally maintain.

Be Patient and Listen

It is best to avoid saying, “Yes, you told me that already” or to get angry about the repetitions. Confronting a loved one who has dementia or using logic and reasoning will most likely add to their anxiety; in turn, their verbal repetition may actually increase. And it is never recommended to ignore what the person is saying—it only adds to the person feeling isolated.

It is also important to remember that communication is still very important for dementia patients. Even though they repeat questions and stories, your loved one wants to engage with you. They may feel that they are “talked at” most of the time and that they would welcome a back and forth interaction. They may be looking for comfort, security and familiarity.

Expand the Conversation

Another technique is to ask them to share more about so and so. This opens the door for your loved one to add something to the conversation and to change up what is presently talked about. It also helps them to feel less lonely.

The way you speak to your loved one is also important. Don’t ask too many questions at once. If you need to ask a question, ask one question at a time and make sure you use simple words and short sentences. Allow enough time for them to respond. Speak clearly and slowly. Watch for their facial clues to see if they are following what you are saying. Avoid shouting, but speak loud enough for them to hear.

Communicate in Other Ways

If the person is still able to read, you might consider writing down the question and the answer so they can use this as a prompt if they wonder about the same thing again. Any other visual clues might be worth trying—like a calendar, clock or pictures.

Again, continue to offer reassurance. You can place your hand on their hand or around their shoulder and look into their eyes. Smile and be patient. Don’t be alarmed if you need to repeat statements or questions as needed or requested by your loved one.

Offer Love and Reassurance

When it is time for you to go, tell them how much you enjoyed the visit and inform them when you will be visiting again.

Remember, conversations don’t have to stop when someone is diagnosed with dementia. Try to accept the repetitions as a part of the illness and engage your loved one with acceptance and understanding. Remember, too, that repetitive conversations are seldom harmful. Try to understand what their repetitions mean. Do they need your help? Are they frustrated or insecure about something? What are they trying to say? How are they feeling?

These tips will go a long way for making the time spent with your loved one as meaningful and well spent as possible.

Table of Contents

Confusion is obviously common in a person with Alzheimer’s disease (or a related dementia), but about one in five people with the disorder will become hyper-agitated in the evening. If you’ve been caring for your loved one during the day, this can be beyond frustrating. Fortunately, there is sound advice for combating the symptoms of sundowning.

Defining Disorientation and Sundowning

Disorientation is a state of mental confusion that includes losing track of direction and time. A version of disorientation typical for people with mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, or related dementia, is sundowning. Sundowning is also known as sundown syndrome and late-day confusion. It’s symptoms are increased confusion and stress in the late afternoon and evening.

Why Sundowning Happens

If you ever wondered why dementia patients are worse at night, sundowning is the answer. Sundowning happens because someone who has dementia cannot maintain circadian rhythm, which our internal “body clock” that tells us when it’s time to be awake and when we should sleep. We spend our lives establishing these rhythms, but the deterioration of brain cells that causes Alzheimer’s also destroys a person’s sense of the time of day.

A person who is tired is more prone to aggravation, obviously, and so someone getting tired without the sense that it’s almost bedtime can become especially confused. Lighting and issues like shadows can be an issue later in the day around sunset, and dietary issues can also contribute to sundowning. Lack of routine is something else demonstrated to contribute to sundowning.

Solutions for Sundowning Challenges

If you’re wondering how long sundowning lasts, the answer is that it’s a symptom of mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and related dementia, which must unfortunately be managed continually. It doesn’t end, but the good news is that there are smart, often simple, ways of dealing with the issue that can help relieve stress for both you and your loved one.

Behavioral Solutions for Sundowning

Stick to a Schedule
Dementia makes the unfamiliar stressful and confusing. Try to reduce stressors in your loved one’s life by giving the days a routine. Consistency means fewer surprises, less confusion, and less anxiety. If they occur at roughly the same time daily, then eating, sleeping, and exercising all become easier.

Brighten Up
Turn up the lighting in your loved one’s home. Low lighting late in the day, as the sun starts going down, makes it harder to see and creates shadows that can be frightening for someone with dementia. Keep rooms bright until it’s time to wind down for bed, and even then be sure it doesn’t get too dark. Soft, consistent lighting is soothing for someone with dementia. (See below for information on light therapy.)

Get Moving
This obviously depends on how capable a person is, but finding activities to do during the day, especially activities that get your loved one moving around, like going for a walk, is a useful strategy for combating sundowning. Inactivity leads to boredom and napping, and someone who is inactive and/or naps during the day has a harder time falling asleep at night.

Eat and Drink Smartly
Avoid caffeine and alcohol, and adjust how your loved one eats so that dinner is a healthy snack rather than a big meal. It’s easier to fall asleep (and generally feel more comfortable) without a large dinner digesting.

Write It Down
Keep a journal, noting what triggers aggression or stress in your loved one. Sundowning is often triggered, and by tracking activities and conditions you can better understand which triggers to avoid, as well as which activities have positive effects.

Self-Care
Caregiver stress can be a major problem, so help your loved one by helping yourself. Providing help for someone with dementia is physically and emotionally taxing, and even if you think you’re masking your stress you could easily be projecting irritation in some unconscious way that your loved one picks up on.

Wind Down
Make evenings relaxing. Play soothing music and establish a routine, doing something nightly that your loved one can peacefully enjoy. You could look at photos together, or read a book that doesn’t stress. (Be careful with TV. Even the news can be a trigger.)

Technology-Based Solutions for Sundowning

Light Therapy
Studies have shown that placing shining light from a fluorescent lamp onto someone with dementia for two hours in the morning can help maintain circadian rhythms, lessen agitation, and decrease instances of sundowning. Two hours of sunlight exposure is best, but if that’s not possible try finding a full-spectrum lamp that projects from 5,000 to 10,000 lux (a measure of intensity), placed about a meter away from your loved one.

Light therapy can be cheaper if you live someplace sunny: Just get outside often so your loved one is exposed to bright natural lighting. This encourages sleepiness when the sun goes down.

Cue the Music
Soothing music around bedtime can help ease sundowning. You could sing or listen along with your loved one, but there are good options for music players that can be pre-programmed and managed by someone with dementia with just the push of a single button. For more, click here.

Medicinal Solutions for Sundowning

Melatonin
A gland in our brains releases melatonin at particular times throughout the day to help maintain sleep patterns (more melatonin is released at night, to help us fall asleep). Melatonin decreases as we age, and is particularly low in people with dementia. Melatonin can be taken as a supplement, without a prescription, and may help with sundowning symptoms. Because our reactions can differ, however, it is very important that you consult with a doctor before giving your loved one melatonin.

CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a healthy, natural alternative to pharmaceuticals that is gaining popularity as treatment for symptoms of dementia including problems sleeping. Our body naturally receives CBD, and studies have shown it can help with appetite, pain, tremors, and sleeping. Again, consult a doctor before you give your loved one any supplement, including CBD. More on CBD.

I have a neighbor who lives two doors away. She is in her early 80’s or so and has always been a little odd. We have ‘known’ each other for ten years and her reputation is that of having always been difficult. Lately, though, she seems to have singled me out and approaches me or stops her car to talk to me if I am outside in my yard talking with another neighbor. She will act peeved that I don’t drop what I’m doing and engage with her, although I really do barely know her. The other day when I was walking my dogs, she ran out of her house and asked me “are we ok?” “are you ok?” “where do you go to breakfast?” “we need to go out together”, etc. I suggested we go, the three of us, for something to eat with another neighbor whom I thought was sort of a friend and who is a good friend of mine. She began saying this other person owed her money (I talked to the other woman who is a good friend who explained how ‘crazy’ this lady is and this is not so and I do believe her), rolled her eyes about her and clearly didn’t want to do that. She also recently got married to an elderly man who had been living with her for a while. I suggested then that maybe ‘the four of us’ (my husband, her husband and we) go out to eat together. She said she just wants to ‘leave them at home and we can call them later’. I said, well, we’ll see and then another neighbor drove up and it broke up her ability to engage me. I told her I had to go inside. As I said, I barely know her but she clearly has dementia and at the same time, seems very manipulative and smart enough to ‘triangulate’ situations. I am feeling stalked in a way. She will drive down the street, see me, and stop and roll down her windows and just kind of stare at me, waiting for me to say something. I keep it short and polite and keep walking most of the time. I do not want to be cruel or rude to her but I also do not want to encourage her. She seems hell bent on us being friends and I have never given out the signal that I want that. Not sure how to handle this. I have been thinking about talking her her husband but I don’t know him either and just by virtue of the fact that they recently married, I doubt he thinks she’s mentally not ‘there’. Other than hiding in my house I don’t know what to do with this. I really do not want to go ‘out’ with her and will have to just tell her that, I guess.

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  • Question: How To Help Elderly Cope With Dementia?

Question: How To Help Elderly Cope With Dementia?

Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person with Dementia

  1. Set a positive mood for interaction.
  2. Get the person’s attention.
  3. State your message clearly.
  4. Ask simple, answerable questions.
  5. Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart.
  6. Break down activities into a series of steps.
  7. When the going gets tough, distract and redirect.

What are the 7 stages of dementia?

People with dementia have problems with thinking, memory, and reasoning, and lose the ability to carry out tasks of daily living. They may also experience changes in personality, mood, and behavior. Dementia is typically defined in seven stages. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

What can you do for elderly with dementia?

Continue reading to find out some suggestions of activities to do with you loved ones living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

  • Exercise and physical activity.
  • Reminisce about their life.
  • Engage them in their favourite activities.
  • Cooking and baking.
  • Animal therapy.
  • Go out and about.
  • Explore nature.
  • Read their favourite book.

What should you not say to someone with dementia?

Here are some things to remember not to say to someone with dementia, and what you can say instead.

  • “You’re wrong”
  • “Do you remember…?”
  • “They passed away.”
  • “I told you…”
  • “What do you want to eat?”
  • “Come, let’s get your shoes on and get to the car, we need to go to the store for some groceries.”

How do you deal with difficult dementia patients?

Try the following strategies:

  1. Establish daily routines.
  2. Ensure proper nutrition and exercise.
  3. Keep daily tasks as simple as possible.
  4. Be compassionate.
  5. Do not argue or try to reason.
  6. Engage them in activities.
  7. Redirect them.
  8. Reassure them that they are safe.

How long can an 80 year old live with dementia?

Progressive brain cell death will eventually cause the digestive system, lungs, and heart to fail, meaning that dementia is a terminal condition. Studies suggest that, on average, someone will live around ten years following a dementia diagnosis.

Do dementia patients know they are confused?

In the earlier stages, memory loss and confusion may be mild. The person with dementia may be aware of — and frustrated by — the changes taking place, such as difficulty recalling recent events, making decisions or processing what was said by others.

Are dementia patients happy?

People with dementia can still feel nice feelings, too. They can feel happy, safe and calm. Some people with dementia may seem like their usual self almost every day and you may only notice small changes every now and then. Some people with dementia may not have as many good days.

When should a person with dementia go into a care home?

“Someone with dementia symptoms may forget where they’ve walked, and end up somewhere they don’t recognize,” Healy says. “When your loved ones are continually putting their physical safety at risk, it’s time to consider memory care.” 3. A decline in physical health.

What are the 10 warning signs of dementia?

The 10 warning signs of dementia

  • Sign 1: Memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities.
  • Sign 2: Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
  • Sign 3: Problems with language.
  • Sign 4: Disorientation in time and space.
  • Sign 5: Impaired judgement.
  • Sign 6: Problems with abstract thinking.
  • Sign 7: Misplacing things.

How do you cheer up someone with dementia?

Listening to music, dancing, or contact with babies, children or animals provide positive feelings. People with dementia often have excellent memories of past events, and looking through old photos, memorabilia and books can help the person to recall earlier times.

What are good activities for dementia patients?

Reminiscing activities for dementia patients at home

  • Look through photo albums. Photo albums with pictures from your loved one’s childhood or young adulthood can bring back favorite memories.
  • Watch old movies and TV shows.
  • Listen to music and sing.
  • Explore history through catalogs and magazines.

What stage of dementia is anger?

The middle stages of dementia are when anger and aggression are most likely to start occurring as symptoms, along with other worrying habits like wandering, hoarding, and compulsive behaviors that may seem unusual.

Do dementia patients do better at home?

Of the 5.2 million people in the United States who have Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, 70 percent remain at home, an option that’s been shown to keep people healthier and happier and help them live longer.

What are six communication techniques you should use when communicating with a person with dementia?

6 nonverbal dementia communication techniques

  • Be patient and calm.
  • Keep voice, face, and body relaxed and positive.
  • Be consistent.
  • Make eye contact and respect personal space.
  • Use gentle touch to reassure.
  • Observe their nonverbal reactions.

Why do dementia patients get so angry?

Mental Triggers Confusion is one of the leading causes of anger and aggression in Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers. Confusion can be triggered by lost trains of thought, mixed up memories, or a sudden change in the environment, such as a change from one caregiver to another.

How to deal with dementia

If you’re dealing with dementia because your parent, spouse, sibling or care recipient has been diagnosed, it’s important to realize that many things will change over time, including the way that your loved one behaves, the way that the two of you interact and the way that they handle daily activities like eating and grooming. You’ll also have to consider your loved one’s safety in ways than you haven’t before.

As you navigate the world of dementia care, here’s what to expect.

The typical stages of dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to a decline in memory and mental ability that interferes with a person’s capacity to live their life normally, and it includes Alzheimer’s disease.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can change life for everyone in a family, as family members take on new roles and relationships change, says Ruth Drew, director of information and support services for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Understanding how the disease progresses can help, so that families can take steps to be prepared for what’s to come,” she says.

  • Early-stage: People with early-stage dementia may seem like themselves, but they have trouble remembering names or new information. They may lose things and have problems completing tasks that involve several steps.
  • Middle-stage: People with middle-stage dementia have trouble recalling many things, including details about their own lives and personal histories. They may become moody, depressed or frustrated, and they may refuse to bathe or care for themselves. They may have accidents if they forget to use the bathroom. Some people wander around their homes or even outside and are not able to recall their name or address.
  • Late-stage: People with late-stage dementia can no longer communicate with words. The dementia affects their ability to move, so they may be confined to a bed or wheelchair. Eventually, they may not be able to swallow food or be aware of their surroundings.

Communicating with your loved one

It can be emotionally wrenching if your loved one can’t remember who you are or what you’ve done together, but it’s advised to continue to address them as an adult. Do your best to remain calm, because people with dementia react to emotions and tone of voice.

“If a person is stressed and nervous, she will sense this feeling and is likely to increase her anxiety or distress,” says Laci Cornelison, a licensed baccalaureate social worker, a research assistant and instructor at the Kansas State University Center on Aging in Manhattan, Kansas. “Focus on connecting with the person as a human being, whether that is through spoken word or touch: Holding hands, hugs, sitting next to them. Connection can be attained in many ways outside of verbal communication.”

Ensuring good hygiene and nutrition

Gradually, someone with dementia may forget to perform important daily tasks like eating and showering. When you begin to notice a difference, step in to make sure that those duties are fulfilled, either by helping yourself, finding another family member or friend to do it or hiring a caregiver.

“Be watchful for signs of self-neglect, such as foul body odor — a sign of not bathing, wearing the same clothes repeatedly, trash not being taken out, hair not combed, nails not trimmed and noticeable weight loss,” Cornelison says. “These are all signs that the person is beginning not to be able to manage their daily needs on their own and needs more consistent supervision of daily tasks … help with activities of daily living, meal preparation and monitoring, medication management, etc.”

Caring for your loved one should be a team effort; don’t let all responsibilities fall on one relative.

“Discuss the tasks that will need to be completed and decide who the best fit for that task is,” Drew says. “Not all family members will be comfortable with personal care, such as bathing, but may be able to offer help in other ways, such as preparing meals or handling finances.”

Dementia safety concerns

As dementia advances, it may become harder for your loved one to continue living at home without full-time supervision.

“Unfortunately, constant supervision, as well as elimination of objects and processes prone to injury, does become necessary in many cases,” says Kevin Jameson, president and founder of the Dementia Society of America. “Risks like cutting oneself, creating fires, burns and falls are all very, very real.”

You may need to hire a full-time caregiver — who can also provide you with respite care — especially if you work outside the home.

Table of Contents

Confusion is obviously common in a person with Alzheimer’s disease (or a related dementia), but about one in five people with the disorder will become hyper-agitated in the evening. If you’ve been caring for your loved one during the day, this can be beyond frustrating. Fortunately, there is sound advice for combating the symptoms of sundowning.

Defining Disorientation and Sundowning

Disorientation is a state of mental confusion that includes losing track of direction and time. A version of disorientation typical for people with mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, or related dementia, is sundowning. Sundowning is also known as sundown syndrome and late-day confusion. It’s symptoms are increased confusion and stress in the late afternoon and evening.

Why Sundowning Happens

If you ever wondered why dementia patients are worse at night, sundowning is the answer. Sundowning happens because someone who has dementia cannot maintain circadian rhythm, which our internal “body clock” that tells us when it’s time to be awake and when we should sleep. We spend our lives establishing these rhythms, but the deterioration of brain cells that causes Alzheimer’s also destroys a person’s sense of the time of day.

A person who is tired is more prone to aggravation, obviously, and so someone getting tired without the sense that it’s almost bedtime can become especially confused. Lighting and issues like shadows can be an issue later in the day around sunset, and dietary issues can also contribute to sundowning. Lack of routine is something else demonstrated to contribute to sundowning.

Solutions for Sundowning Challenges

If you’re wondering how long sundowning lasts, the answer is that it’s a symptom of mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and related dementia, which must unfortunately be managed continually. It doesn’t end, but the good news is that there are smart, often simple, ways of dealing with the issue that can help relieve stress for both you and your loved one.

Behavioral Solutions for Sundowning

Stick to a Schedule
Dementia makes the unfamiliar stressful and confusing. Try to reduce stressors in your loved one’s life by giving the days a routine. Consistency means fewer surprises, less confusion, and less anxiety. If they occur at roughly the same time daily, then eating, sleeping, and exercising all become easier.

Brighten Up
Turn up the lighting in your loved one’s home. Low lighting late in the day, as the sun starts going down, makes it harder to see and creates shadows that can be frightening for someone with dementia. Keep rooms bright until it’s time to wind down for bed, and even then be sure it doesn’t get too dark. Soft, consistent lighting is soothing for someone with dementia. (See below for information on light therapy.)

Get Moving
This obviously depends on how capable a person is, but finding activities to do during the day, especially activities that get your loved one moving around, like going for a walk, is a useful strategy for combating sundowning. Inactivity leads to boredom and napping, and someone who is inactive and/or naps during the day has a harder time falling asleep at night.

Eat and Drink Smartly
Avoid caffeine and alcohol, and adjust how your loved one eats so that dinner is a healthy snack rather than a big meal. It’s easier to fall asleep (and generally feel more comfortable) without a large dinner digesting.

Write It Down
Keep a journal, noting what triggers aggression or stress in your loved one. Sundowning is often triggered, and by tracking activities and conditions you can better understand which triggers to avoid, as well as which activities have positive effects.

Self-Care
Caregiver stress can be a major problem, so help your loved one by helping yourself. Providing help for someone with dementia is physically and emotionally taxing, and even if you think you’re masking your stress you could easily be projecting irritation in some unconscious way that your loved one picks up on.

Wind Down
Make evenings relaxing. Play soothing music and establish a routine, doing something nightly that your loved one can peacefully enjoy. You could look at photos together, or read a book that doesn’t stress. (Be careful with TV. Even the news can be a trigger.)

Technology-Based Solutions for Sundowning

Light Therapy
Studies have shown that placing shining light from a fluorescent lamp onto someone with dementia for two hours in the morning can help maintain circadian rhythms, lessen agitation, and decrease instances of sundowning. Two hours of sunlight exposure is best, but if that’s not possible try finding a full-spectrum lamp that projects from 5,000 to 10,000 lux (a measure of intensity), placed about a meter away from your loved one.

Light therapy can be cheaper if you live someplace sunny: Just get outside often so your loved one is exposed to bright natural lighting. This encourages sleepiness when the sun goes down.

Cue the Music
Soothing music around bedtime can help ease sundowning. You could sing or listen along with your loved one, but there are good options for music players that can be pre-programmed and managed by someone with dementia with just the push of a single button. For more, click here.

Medicinal Solutions for Sundowning

Melatonin
A gland in our brains releases melatonin at particular times throughout the day to help maintain sleep patterns (more melatonin is released at night, to help us fall asleep). Melatonin decreases as we age, and is particularly low in people with dementia. Melatonin can be taken as a supplement, without a prescription, and may help with sundowning symptoms. Because our reactions can differ, however, it is very important that you consult with a doctor before giving your loved one melatonin.

CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a healthy, natural alternative to pharmaceuticals that is gaining popularity as treatment for symptoms of dementia including problems sleeping. Our body naturally receives CBD, and studies have shown it can help with appetite, pain, tremors, and sleeping. Again, consult a doctor before you give your loved one any supplement, including CBD. More on CBD.

Good for the elderly

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  • Question: What Do To When An Elderly Person Falls?
  • Who Do You Contact If An Elderly Passes Away At Home?
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  • Often asked: Why Has My Elderly Cat Started Yowling?
  • Question: Why Is My Elderly Cat Sleeping A Lot?
  • FAQ: Why Do The Elderly Have Trouble Keeping A Regular Bowel Movements?
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  • Question: How To Deal With Elderly Parents With Dementia?

Question: How To Deal With Elderly Parents With Dementia?

With dementia, the only constant is change.

  1. Find resources for coping with caregiver stress.
  2. Talk with your family and children about caregiving.
  3. Have regular family meetings.
  4. Spend time with your partner and children.
  5. Know when it’s time to bring in outside help.

What are the 7 stages of dementia?

People with dementia have problems with thinking, memory, and reasoning, and lose the ability to carry out tasks of daily living. They may also experience changes in personality, mood, and behavior. Dementia is typically defined in seven stages. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

What should you not say to someone with dementia?

Here are some things to remember not to say to someone with dementia, and what you can say instead.

  • “You’re wrong”
  • “Do you remember…?”
  • “They passed away.”
  • “I told you…”
  • “What do you want to eat?”
  • “Come, let’s get your shoes on and get to the car, we need to go to the store for some groceries.”

How do you deal with a difficult parent with dementia?

Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person with Dementia

  1. Set a positive mood for interaction.
  2. Get the person’s attention.
  3. State your message clearly.
  4. Ask simple, answerable questions.
  5. Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart.
  6. Break down activities into a series of steps.
  7. When the going gets tough, distract and redirect.

How can I help my elderly parent with dementia?

How to Help a Parent Accept Dementia Care

  1. Try to understand how they feel. Put yourself in your parent’s shoes.
  2. Ask questions.
  3. Be patient.
  4. Give choices.
  5. Take it slow.

How long can an 80 year old live with dementia?

Progressive brain cell death will eventually cause the digestive system, lungs, and heart to fail, meaning that dementia is a terminal condition. Studies suggest that, on average, someone will live around ten years following a dementia diagnosis.

What stage of dementia does Sundowning start?

What are the symptoms of sundowning? Sundowning is a distressing symptom that affects people in mid to late-stage Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and as the condition progresses, the symptoms tend to worsen.

How do you make someone with dementia happy?

Continue reading to find out some suggestions of activities to do with you loved ones living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

  1. Exercise and physical activity.
  2. Reminisce about their life.
  3. Engage them in their favourite activities.
  4. Cooking and baking.
  5. Animal therapy.
  6. Go out and about.
  7. Explore nature.
  8. Read their favourite book.

Does a person with dementia know they have it?

Does someone with dementia know they have it? Families often ask “are dementia patients aware of their condition?” In some cases, the short answer is no, they’re not aware they have dementia or Alzheimer’s.

How do you calm down someone with dementia?

Here are 10 tips for coping when an older adult with dementia exhibits difficult behaviors.

  1. Music. Music therapy helps seniors calm down and reflect on happier times.
  2. Aromatherapy.
  3. Touch.
  4. Pet Therapy.
  5. A Calm Approach.
  6. Move to a Secure Memory Care Community.
  7. Maintain Routines.
  8. Provide Reassurances.

Do dementia patients do better at home?

Of the 5.2 million people in the United States who have Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, 70 percent remain at home, an option that’s been shown to keep people healthier and happier and help them live longer.

What are the 10 warning signs of dementia?

The 10 warning signs of dementia

  • Sign 1: Memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities.
  • Sign 2: Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
  • Sign 3: Problems with language.
  • Sign 4: Disorientation in time and space.
  • Sign 5: Impaired judgement.
  • Sign 6: Problems with abstract thinking.
  • Sign 7: Misplacing things.

What are six communication techniques you should use when communicating with a person with dementia?

6 nonverbal dementia communication techniques

  • Be patient and calm.
  • Keep voice, face, and body relaxed and positive.
  • Be consistent.
  • Make eye contact and respect personal space.
  • Use gentle touch to reassure.
  • Observe their nonverbal reactions.

What is the number one food that fights dementia?

What is the number one food that fights dementia? Green leafy vegetables are probably the number one food that fights dementia. They have a strong, positive effect on cognitive health.

How do you talk to a parent with dementia?

How to Talk to a Parent Who Has Dementia: Say This, Not This

  1. Keep distractions away.
  2. Speak slowly and clearly.
  3. Use visual cues.
  4. Use the sense of touch.
  5. Do not “quiz”.
  6. Do not talk down to them.
  7. Keep impatience and anger in check.
  8. Don’t be afraid of silences.

Why do dementia patients not want to shower?

Bathing can be a challenge because people living with Alzheimer’s may be uncomfortable receiving assistance with such an intimate activity. They may also have depth perception problems that make it scary to step into water. They may not perceive a need to bathe or may find it a cold, uncomfortable experience.

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The content below is reflective of our leaflet.

Calming techniques for a person with dementia (and for you)

When you care for someone with dementia, life can feel overwhelming. Our dementia specialist Admiral Nurses can provide life-changing care during these difficult times. They have the time to listen and the knowledge to solve problems. For families affected by dementia, they can be a lifeline.

Dementia and distress

When a person with dementia becomes distressed, it is often because they are trying to communicate something to you. You might see their behaviour change at these times: they may become agitated, and start to pace or ask to go home. Or they might become withdrawn and uncommunicative.

This distressed behaviour can be because the person is disorientated, frightened or anxious. They might be trying to make sense of the world around them, and they might see things quite differently to the way that you do (for instance, they might not recognise the place they are in as their home).

They also might be trying to communicate an unmet need, such as that they are in pain, hungry or thirsty, or experiencing discomfort, such as constipation or an infection.

Changes in routine can be distressing for a person with dementia. This can include going somewhere they do not usually go, such as for a hospital appointment, or attending a day centre, or going to a family gathering. Visitors to the person’s house can also be unsettling, due to the change in routine and the extra noise and activity it creates.

If possible, it’s important to identify the cause or source of the person’s distress, as then you can take steps to try and help them.

You know the person with dementia best. This means you are best placed to know what will give them reassurance.

In this video, Admiral Nurse Paulette Winchester-Jones suggests techniques that can try to prevent the distress in the first place as well as methods for promoting calm in the moment.

Techniques to avoid or lessen distress in advance

There are techniques that we can try to prevent a person with dementia from becoming distressed in the first place. You could:

  • try to maintain a daily routine
  • explain the situation to the people around you, so they know not to drop in at unexpected times or to take the person out unexpectedly
  • give the person with dementia information in easy to digest nuggets, and in a timely manner. This means giving them some advance notice but not too much: if you are going out, try to tell them on the day itself, and with a little bit of notice for them to absorb the information

You might need to adjust this to the person: being told in advance that they are going out can cause some people to feel anxious. But some people like to be given advance notice to get ready. Use your knowledge of the person to gauge what is right for them.

Techniques for promoting calm in the moment

If the person with dementia does start to become upset, there are some methods you can try to help them feel calmer. These are:

  • Try, yourself, to remain calm. A person with dementia might say something upsetting to you, often when they themselves are upset.
  • Take five or ten seconds; think about what you’re going to say, before you reply
  • Keep a calm and steady tone of voice
  • Try and maintain eye contact with that person

You know the person with dementia best. This means you are best placed to know what will give them reassurance. Not everything will work for everyone, but some things you can try include:

  • giving the person a hug
  • playing some music they love
  • sitting and holding their hand
  • offering them a cup of tea
  • changing the scenery and proposing you both go into a different room

Sometimes, none of these tips will work. And sometimes, it might seem like the more actively you try to calm the person down, the more upset they become. It can help to acknowledge that they are upset and then give them some space; perhaps go into a different room for five or ten minutes if it is appropriate to do so.

In this video, Admiral Nurse Gayle Madden share some tips to help the person with dementia feel more at ease, which might make them less inclined to want to leave the house.

Sundowning, or late-day confusion

Some people with a diagnosis of dementia tend to feel more confused and distressed in the evening. This is known as Sundowning. For more advice on Sundowning, please see our leaflet on the topic.

Calming techniques

Remember: you are doing your best. Try to be kind to yourself.

Here is a calming breathing technique that you can try: it’s called the signal breath. It’s designed to give you a moment to simply distance yourself from the stressful situation you might be in, before helping you to come back to the here and now.

The person with dementia might also find this calming. You could try talking them through it.

  • Take a deep breath in and tense your jaw, shoulders and arms
  • Hold the breath for two or three seconds
  • Then let the breath go, relaxing your jaw, shoulders and arms
  • As you exhale, mentally say a soothing word to yourself, such as ‘relax’ or ‘calm’
  • Let your arms, shoulders and jaw go limp and loose

Dealing with dementia denial may not be something that crossed your path before. If you are caring for an elderly relative, you are already doing a difficult job. Of course the love and affection you have for them helps a lot. Furthermore, since this is a decision you made, the commitment is a burden you chose to carry. Spending time with your elderly loved one towards the end of their life is precious for you both. They cared for you when you were young and now it is your turn to pay them back. Reliving the old days and making new memories are things the entire family can enjoy and participate in. Unfortunately, this only makes it harder to know how to deal with dementia denial.

However, you may have noticed certain changes, even deterioration, in their mental health. You may even suspect that dementia is on the horizon. If you are correct, you may be wondering what to do next. Here at Vermont Aged Care we are familiar with the problems of dementia. Therefore we have experience that we are happy to share with you. Fact sheets are available at https://vic.fightdementia.org.au/about-dementia/resources/help-sheets .

Dementia denial

Before you go jumping in with both feet for that first conversation, you need to know a few things abouthow to deal with dementia denial. First of all, you should probably expect a denial. That is because dementia sufferers are often the last people to know about their condition. Since dementia is a degenerative brain condition it can come on unnoticed by the sufferer. In fact, outsiders probably notice the signs before the patient does. Of course you don’t want to shock them by being blunt. That is why it’s a good idea to begin by having a private conversation with their regular physician. This person will know their patient in some depth. They might recommend a checkup. This would serve to eliminate any physical ailments or connections with medication.

The softly, softly approach

In training programs for supervisors and managers, they often advocate the importance of noting real facts. It is called documenting versus diagnosing. That is why a good place to begin would be making a list of the things you have noticed. These are usually called behavioural changes and will help you in planning how to deal with dementia denial.

Typically, they involve memory loss, mood swings and odd behaviour. That is why it is important to broach the subject very gently and very diplomatically. Be prepared for an angry reaction. Also be prepared for tears because the truth can sometimes be painful to hear. Have the box of tissues and a nice cup of hot tea handy.

Memory loss

Whilst memory lapses are very common amongst people of all ages, they become pronounced in dementia. They may even already be aware of it themselves and be too anxious to bring it up. Typically the short-term memory seems to be affected first. Therefore, you will notice a discrepancy in that area. They might begin to talk about things that happened predominantly in the past. They might begin to constantly relive childhood and teenage-hood events. Conversely, they might start forgetting what happened today or yesterday. Those would-be signs to look for.

Mood swings

When we think of mood swings, we generally think of happy versus sad. And of course that is one of the signs. But it is not the only one. Your elderly loved one may go from anxiety to optimism. Also, they may begin to laugh when they should cry and vice versa when watching something on television. Depression is the next on the list. They may be depressed for no evident reason. That is because the brain is imagining things that are not there. Never be critical or harsh as they will not help. Remember, whatever is happening in their brain is outside of their control.

Odd behaviour

Odd behaviour is probably best described as outside of their character. A normally gentle person may suddenly display aggressive behaviour. They might begin hitting people whereas they never did so in the past. Also, some people may begin using abusive language, even the use of profanity, that is totally out of character for them. The root is often frustration as they struggle to cope with the changes they are experiencing. Other signs to look for are indecency of dress and sexually inappropriate behaviour. They are caused by a loss of inhibition, which they are unaware of.

The inability to control these urges must be very painful for them. Always remember that you are not instigating these behavioural changes. However, patience is required, because responding in kind would only serve to upset them more. Furthermore, they may be experiencing fear as they contemplate their future with a brain that appears to be playing tricks on them. The reason for this fear will be that they are experiencing good and bad days.

In conclusion

The good news is that you are there to help your elderly loved one through it all. Join them in talking about the past. Bring out the photographs and the videos of family weddings and celebrations. There is no need to mention how long ago they took place. That is irrelevant. Play the music you know they love, even if it was from the Second World War. If you do everything you can to keep them happy it will go a long way towards helping them to remain positive. If they know that you are okay with the changes happening to them they will accept them too. Here is a helpful link with a strong message: https://vic.fightdementia.org.au

For more information ring the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

How to deal with dementia

One of the greatest challenges dementia care partners face is “I want to go home.”

People with dementia often “want to go home,” even when they are in a place they may have lived for years.

It’s frustrating for the person with dementia who is convinced he or she needs to be somewhere else. It’s also frustrating for the care partner who doesn’t have dementia because there seems to be no way to solve the problem.

We would gladly take people with dementia “home” if only we could. Sadly, we can’t because the place they want to go exists only in the reality of their minds.

  1. find creative ways to deal with these situations when they arise
  2. employ strategies that reduce the stress, anxiety and pain of the “going home” problem.

Here are 13 tips that will help defuse “I want to go home” (see disclaimer):

  1. Don’t argue
  2. Try something different
  3. Agree and validate
  4. Say you’re sorry
  5. Build self-esteem
  6. Offer incentives
  7. Create collaboration
  8. Give reasons to be “here”
  9. Remember: we are the same
  10. Remember: their filter is gone
  11. Remember: value and purpose
  12. Think! How can you work together?
  13. Role play and practice

In the video below, dementia care pioneer Teepa Snow teaches a care worker a better way of handling “I want to go home” (the demo starts at about 1:15 and finishes at about 7:00):

Dementia and challenging behaviour sometimes go hand in hand on a daily basis if you work in a dementia care home. This could be mentally or physically from the person such as pushing you away or verbally shouting at you. Working in health and social care can be challenging at times and in this article, we will provide you with some tips for dealing with challenging behaviour in dementia clients.

We emphasise that proactive practices can help move away from reactive crisis management. The aim of this article is to outline behaviours that can be proactively identified, with strategies developed to enhance the lives of those living with Dementia.

What is challenging behaviour?

There are many forms of challenging behaviour, but as Leanne Cunliffe from Care for Me Training points out; not all of these behaviours are aggressive.

Here are some examples of aggressive behaviours that challenge:

  • Physical aggression – pushing, pulling or punching
  • Verbal aggression – shouting, swearing or screaming
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour – exposure, touching
  • Acts of self-harm
  • Throwing objects

Examples of behaviours that challenge which are non-aggressive forms are:

  • Repetitive noises or questioning
  • Eating or drinking excessively
  • Following others/trailing
  • Dismantling objects, hoarding things
  • Falling intentionally, non-compliance
  • Urinating in inappropriate places

As dementia develops, it can cause behaviour changes that can be confusing, irritating or difficult for others to deal with, leaving carers, partners and family members feeling stressed, irritable or helpless. By learning to understand the meaning behind the actions, it can be easier to stay calm and deal effectively with the challenges that arise.

What is the cause of the behaviour?

Depending on the progression of dementia, then the levels of challenging behaviour will vary and the individual’s background may also explain their frustration. Imagine being in their position if they cannot verbally communicate or you do not understand them, how else would you communicate with someone?

Peter Gathercole from Endeavour Care Training adds:

Often we look at behaviour as a challenge rather than look at the cause of the distress, establishing why someone is distressed will help us formulate the correct response in reducing the distress the person may have. Like any good detective, you are gathering the facts, assessing the information, evaluating the evidence and planning your response. You can ask some key questions to ascertain the cause of the behaviour.

Suggested questions you could ask as the detective are.

  • Is this a new behaviour?
  • Does the behaviour pose danger for the resident or others?
  • Whom is it really a problem for? (Resident? Staff? Family?)
  • Look at each behaviour as a separate challenge.
  • When did the behaviour start?
  • Is the behaviour an expression of other illness?

Nicola Le Prevost, Clinical Lecturer Pilgrims Hospice Kent adds:

“Does the person have other conditions which are not stable, or are they developing an illness such as urinary tract infection or chest infection, for instance, which can produce changes in behaviour or exacerbate confusion? Management involves recognition and measures to manage the problem in addition to the behaviour. Care staff can be unaware or forget to look at early signs of illness affecting behaviour before the person is showing more physical signs of the problem.”

How can you assist those living with dementia?

  • Always stay calm and do not confront or challenge the individual and this could make them feel more distressed
  • Communicate clearly – speak slowly and repeat yourself if you feel the need to do so
  • Listening skills are crucial to identifying what the problem is at hand
  • Stay positive in the situation, the individual will feel negativity and get more frustrated otherwise
  • Identify and rectify problems in the environment – is the environment noisy? is it comfortable?
  • Remember the goods – try to help the individual recall something good from their past such as the music they listened to when they were younger or memorable historic events
  • Use ABC charts to try to identify possible triggers for any behaviours that challenge
  • Try alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, music, dance, doll therapy etc
  • Try to assess if the person with dementia is in any pain, as this may be the cause of some behaviours that challenge due to the inability to express this. A tool such as the Abbey pain tool can be used to help identify possible signs of pain in an individual unable to communicate this
  • Use distractions techniques or life storybooks to take the individual away from the situation that is causing them distress, and change the experience to a more positive one
  • Use a person-centred approach by completing “This is me” document, which helps to identify things unique to the individual

Jane Chatterjee, lecturer in palliative care at St Gemma’s hospice adds further:

It is important to consider the potential of physical illness and pain particularly in an older population likely living with co-morbid conditions. Behavioural pain assessment tools such as the Abbey pain tool detect the wider concept of distress and it is important to rule out other causes of distress before assuming the pain is the cause unless there are obvious physical signs.

One distress is detected using such a tool then ABC charts can help determine the potential cause of the distress which may be physical pain/discomfort, psychosocial or emotional or a combination of these. Sometimes it is difficult to identify distress if it is more subtle and that is where behavioural assessment tools are useful as well as information from those who know them well.

What should the aims of any intervention try to avoid or reduce?

Any intervention should aim to help avoid people with dementia feeling undervalued, vulnerable, their rights infringed, loss of dignity, a sense of shame or hopelessness. It should also reduce the likelihood of living in an environment that is poor, chaotic, hostile with little opportunities for positive interaction or positive routines.

Are your workers trained sufficiently?

Ensuring workers have the confidence, skills and knowledge to deal with challenging behaviour in dementia clients is essential. The Skills Platform provides a wide range of dementia training and challenging behaviour training courses to ensure their safety and help resolve challenging situations.

It can be one of the most upsetting things about being a family caregiver. You’re consumed with the care of your mom. You spend hours helping her, taking over household chores, driving her to medical appointments, struggling with her personal care. Yet instead of thanks, you may be met with accusations: “You’ve taken my purse! You’re stealing my money.” Then, as usual, after a few minutes’ search, the purse turns up under the pillow, where Mom hid and forgot it.

How to deal with dementia

Delusions—fixed, false ideas—are quite common with Alzheimer’s disease and the other dementias. Often, they can simply be caused by the very nature of the disease and the damage to the brain caused by dementia. It may be possible that mother hid her purse “to keep it safe.” However, she forgets that she put in under the pillow so now it’s missing. You are the only person who has visited; therefore, you must be the guilty party.

Likewise, mistaken identity, another common delusion, can be caused by forgetfulness. As painful as it may be, your father may not remember what his wife, daughter, or son look like, so he no longer recognizes them. Or, forgetful and confused, he may think he is 40 years old, not 80, and so may mistake his grandson for his son.

Sometimes delusions are more mysterious. A person with dementia may decide that the neighbors have moved the fence in six feet during the night or that someone is constantly breaking into the house.

In any case, delusions can be frightening and painful for both the individual living with dementia and their loved ones. If you are caring for someone who is experiencing delusions, consider these tips:

  • Try not to overreact or get upset, even if, like the false accusation, the delusion is upsetting. Remember, a real disease is attacking the brain. It’s the disease at work, not the person.
  • In cases of mistaken identity, try offering some gentle cues. “Gosh, honey, it’s me, Mary, your wife!” You can help maintain another’s dignity by saying, “You’ve got such a sense of humor” or “I know I look young enough to be your daughter.”
  • Let the person know you have heard his or her concern. “Mom, I’m so sorry your purse is missing. That is upsetting. Let’s look around just in case it accidentally got misplaced.” You can then celebrate with a big smile and hug when you “find” the purse.
  • “Tell me about that purse. Is it the red one or blue one?” Asking additional questions can allow the person to tell you more about worries and concerns.
  • Don’t argue. You can almost never talk the person out of a belief or concern or convince him that he or she is wrong. If your family member thinks the fence has been moved, say that you will work on getting to the bottom of the situation or call the county to investigate.
  • Take advantage of the passage of time. Sometimes your best efforts will fail and the person will continue to express the delusion. If you provide ongoing reassurance and take a low-key approach, these delusions will go away on their own.

Delusions can be one of the most challenging symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. If they become overwhelming, consider consulting a professional. Reach out to the person’s doctor, a geriatric care manager, or a professional caregiver who has received training in handling dementia related behaviors.

Get moral support and Alzheimer’s resources in your Facebook feed by liking our Remember for Alzheimer’s Facebook page.

To find a caregiver in your area, contact your local Home Instead office.

One of the most common requests made by people with dementia is, “I want to go home!” This request may be repeated over and over, and unfortunately it doesn’t help to remind them that they already are home.

How to deal with dementia

Typically, people with dementia ask to “go home” when they are feeling unsure or uncomfortable in their surroundings. If you are caring for someone with dementia, there are some helpful steps you can take to put your loved one at ease when they ask to go “home.”

1. Check for distress

Observe your loved one’s facial expression, body language, and emotional state.

  • If they are distressed, rule out any underlying causes – pain, hunger, thirst, boredom, or need for the restroom – and address those first.
  • If they are not distressed, remember that because of their memory loss, the environment feels unfamiliar. Show the person through body language and familiarity that they are in the “right” place.

2. Avoid contradictions

Help your loved one feel safe and familiar through affirmation, rather than by trying to correct them.

  • Stay away from explaining to someone with dementia that they are home, or that they are in their new home. Similarly, don’t try to explain why home isn’t an option.

3. Engage the senses

Help your loved one relax by creating a positive environment, and focusing less on explanations.

  • Smell: Use aromatherapy – Jasmine, lavender, and lemon are popular scents.
  • Sound: Play your loved one’s favorite music.
  • Sight: Look at familiar things that are enjoyable to your loved one such as pictures, imagery, or the view out the window.
  • Touch: Show support through physical touch – hold hands, or place your hand on their shoulder. Try introducing interesting textures such as folding laundry, holding papers, playing with a pet.

4. Identify patterns

Start a log to notice trends and triggers.

  • Does your loved one say “I want to go home” this around the same time every day? Try doing an enjoyable, structured activity at that time of day before they begin to verbalize this request.
  • Track effective topics of conversation and interventions and have them ready when you need them.

5. Stay confident

When one intervention is ineffective, simply try a new intervention and try not to be discouraged.
Be sure to answer each question as if it is the first time it is being asked. You may need to repeat the same response several times, but saying, “I already told you” will only further break down communication.

6. Seek advice

Remember that there are professionals who can help. Schedule a consultation with Seniors At Home’s dementia care experts to discuss and brainstorm interventions that support positive engagement with your loved one.

To schedule a family consultation with the Seniors At Home Center for Dementia Care, call 415-449-3700 or contact us online.

Do you remember the old story about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Gentle Dr. Jekyll invents a potion to separate the good side of his personality from his darker impulses. At first, he can drink the potion and turn himself at will into his evil alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. Soon, however, Dr. Jekyll morphs into Mr. Hyde without trying—the dark side of his personality has taken over.

Sometimes it can seem like dementia is turning a loved one into an aggressive Mr. Hyde, who bears little resemblance to the person you once knew. How can you handle these alarming changes?

Negative Personality Changes

It is important to understand that the primary cause of behavioral and personality changes in dementia patients is the process of the disease itself. While scientists do not understand why dementia patients often become aggressive, they do know that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia profoundly alter the brain.

In the early stages of dementia, you may notice that the patient seems moody or increasingly anxious—as the dementia progresses, the person may have unexplained angry outbursts and may seem inappropriately impulsive. The patient may also seem restless, agitated or tearful in the evenings; this is called sundowning. Usually patients express aggression and agitation verbally, but they may also become physically abusive. Sometimes patients even experience hallucinations.

While some changes in personality may be irremediable, there are some steps you can take to cope with and minimize other behaviors. Common triggers of anger or aggression in dementia patients include:

  • Pain or discomfort: The person may be responding to exhaustion from lack of sleep, or uncomfortable side effects from taking multiple medications. Urinary tract infections are common in dementia patients, and can cause severe pain that the patient may not be able to describe. Sometimes, urinary tract infections may not cause pain, but may manifest themselves in other inexplicable behavioral changes, such as outbursts or wanting to sleep all day.
  • Overstimulation: Too much noise, clutter or activity may overwhelm patients with dementia.
  • Stress and confusion: Patients may respond aggressively to the confusion caused by being asked too many questions, or being given multi-step instructions. They may also react to the stress and negative feelings of overwhelmed caregivers.

How To Cope

When you are faced with difficult or aggressive behaviors, try to analyze the situation. Was the patient feeling lost or confused? Were they overwhelmed with a new situation that they felt unprepared for, or with environmental stressors like noise or unfamiliar people? Try these tips:

  • Check to see if they are in pain, hungry, thirsty, tired or soiled
  • Try to create a calming environment with minimal distractions
  • Stay calm in the situation
  • Try switching to a different activity
  • Make sure everyone stays safe. You may need to remove yourself from the room. If the patient is about to get hurt (by walking into the street, for example); you may need to be more firm with them, but try not to use physical force.

In some cases, medication may be needed, but non-drug approaches are always used first. Finally, remember to take care of yourself as the caregiver, and ask for help when you need it.

Violent behavior among dementia patients can be frightening and frustrating for care providers. As caregivers start to feel “burnt out,” they may also lose empathy for the patient. Recognizing and treating violent behavior can help improve quality of life for patients, as well as people close to them.

Verbal aggression, threats and physical violence are the most frequently reported behavior disturbances, according to American Family Physician. Dementia patients can’t always be clear about what they need, what they’re feeling or what may be bothering them.

Determining The Cause Of The Behavior

Taking the time to listen and assess the situation can help pinpoint the source of anxiety and intent of the behavior. Is there a pattern to the behavior? Has anything changed in the patient’s health, environment, treatment plan, or daily routine?

Ask these kinds of questions when determining the cause of violent behavior and remember: Don’t take it personally. It may seem like the dementia patient is attacking you, but really they are anxious and you happen to be around.

When behavioral disturbances occur, give the person space; you may need to leave the room until you’re both calm, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. Showing your anxiety may make the dementia patient more agitated, so make sure you can approach them calmly. Tell the person you can see they’re upset.

Interventions To Try

The type of intervention depends on the individual and the cause of the violent behavior, according to The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The main objective is to calm them down – not to restrain them or get them more riled up.

Try one of these interventions when dealing with a distressed dementia patient:

  • Calming music: Patients can respond well to familiar, relaxing music. Put on one of their favorite tunes and reassure them.
  • Provide meaningful activities: Aggression can come from boredom. Make sure they have something to keep them busy, even if it’s as simple as folding laundry or putting books on a shelf. Also make sure that any dangerous items are kept out of sight and out of reach.
  • Ask close-ended questions: Sometimes giving dementia patients decision-making power can overwhelm them. Instead of asking, “What would you like for lunch?'”ask “Would you like lunch now?'” Simple, yes or no questions are less stressful to answer.
  • Let them cuddle with a pet: Household pets can provide companionship when a patient feels lonely, so snuggling up with a furry friend may be a great way to keep their hands busy.
  • Be flexible: If the violent behavior occurs when you’re trying to get the patient to do a particular task, such as: bathing, eating or changing his clothes, try again later. Wait until he’s calm and ready.
  • Remind them of things they enjoy: Depression is a common symptom of dementia that can lead to aggression. Talking in a soothing voice about things they enjoy can help improve a dementia patient’s outlook.
  • Show them pictures or videos of loved ones: Lonely dementia patients may be missing their friends and family. Showing them photos, videos or playing recordings of the people they’re closest to can help them recall positive memories.
  • Take a nap: Sleep disturbances are a common symptom of dementia and can worsen mood. Resting in the afternoon can help them complete evening activities. Use of melatonin, increased physical activity and bright light therapy can also help improve sleep patterns.

While antipsychotics can suppress violent behavior, they won’t help determine the cause; therefore especially among patients in early stages of the condition, the use of antipsychotics is not recommended.

How do we make sure people with dementia have a good quality of life? Photograph: Mel Yates/Getty Images

How do we make sure people with dementia have a good quality of life? Photograph: Mel Yates/Getty Images

Some 800,000 people in the UK have dementia – and that number is due to rise to 1 million by 2021. While there are pockets of best practice, too many dementia patients and their families are struggling. Our next online discussion will explore how to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their families.

How do we overcome the fear and stigma associated with dementia? How do we ensure people with dementia receive a quicker diagnosis? What kind of support should be available to dementia patients, their families and their carers? How do we make sure dementia care is tailored to an individual’s interests, abilities, history and personality? We will highlight examples of best practice and consider how to implement excellent dementia care across the board.

At the Guardian’s third Ageing Population Quarterly event, Professor Tom Dening, chair of dementia research at the University of Nottingham, advocated a “deal for dementia”, to help patients and their families and carers plan for their future with more information and support. During our online debate, we will consider what would make a real difference to people with dementia, and how do we offer this? How do you build services around the priorities of those with dementia and their families?

This online discussion is the third in our ageing population series. You can send us your questions or thoughts before the debate via Twitter at @SocietyGuardian or email [email protected]

The panel includes

Sheena Wyllie, director of dementia services, Barchester Healthcare
Hilda Hayo, chief executive, Dementia UK
Kathryn Smith, director of operations, Alzheimer’s Society
June Andrews, director of Stirling University’s Dementia Services Development Centre
Chris Dyer, a consultant geriatrician, Royal United Hospital Bath NHS trust
Beth Britton, blogger and dementia campaigner
Steve Milton, co-director, Innovations in Dementia
Annette Darby, dementia services manager, Dudley metropolitan borough council
Steve Palmer, press and public affairs manager, Social Care Institute for Excellence
Ruth Marks, director of older people’s services, Reach and the Seren Group. Ruth was previously Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
Martin Hawkings, consultant in public health, City of York council

by ROAD iD Staff April 23, 2021

Source: fizkes/ Shutterstock

It’s not easy to watch a family member age. You’re expected to take care of them, and many are open and willing to take on the task. They raised you when you were young, and you should provide them with the same care in return.

However, having a family member with dementia makes the situation of care harder. Dementia is a degenerative disease. People suffering from dementia experience memory loss, issues speaking, aggressiveness, hallucinations, physical wandering and more.

Caring for a family member with dementia can be difficult. You’ll often find yourself googling, late at night, “how to deal with dementia” out of frustration. But caring for your aging family member shouldn’t be a frustration. Whether it’s remaining patient with them or having them wear a medical alert bracelet , you can help keep your relative healthy and safe.

Maintain healthy communication

First and foremost, you should do your best to remain patient with your family member. As mentioned, dementia is a degenerative disease. Your relative may be aware of their cognitive decline, but there will be instances where they are unaware of what’s happening to them — what is sometimes referred to as an episode of dementia .

The worst thing for you to do to them, in the middle of one of their episodes, is to bring attention to the fact that they are forgetting things. From their perspective, they don’t realize that they seem confused, have forgotten something you said 15 minutes ago or are repeating themselves. Calling them out will only make them more uncomfortable, as well as potentially making the situation more fraught.

Avoid distractions

One of the most common symptoms of dementia is increased confusion. When attempting to communicate with a person, they will lose focus on their thought, find themselves struggling to remember what they wanted to say and get distracted by something else in the process, making the initial matter worse.

It’s important you limit distractions when communicating with them. Understand that there is a time and place for every conversation, and that they cannot handle too many conversations at once. If they seem confused, slow down and simplify. Keep the conversation straightforward to avoid overwhelming them.

Keep it simple

One way to avoid confusion when interacting with your family member is to ask simple questions. Issues can arise when you begin asking open-ended questions or provide them with too many choices at once. Such situations can lead to them becoming confused and overwhelmed.

Instead, keep to simple yes-or-no questions or provide them with visual prompts.

How to deal with dementia

Source: Mary Long/ Shutterstock

Protection while wandering and around strangers

It’s highly unsafe if your family member begins wandering out in public or is regularly interacting with complete strangers. Their behavior is sure to appear concerning, and some strangers might react poorly to them.

A dementia ID bracelet can protect them against backlash and provide them with necessary assistance. Whether it’s a police officer conducting a wellness check or a concerned citizen wondering why they’re acting aggressively, their engraved medical alert bracelet will inform them of their dementia diagnosis, allowing that bystander to administer help as they can.

Avoid power dynamics

This is especially important if the family member with dementia is a parent. Part of later stage dementia is the misplacement of time, as caused by memory loss. This often includes a person thinking they are living in a different year, mistaking people around them for relatives from their past.

As a child, this can cause issues, especially if you’re attempting to exert power over them. You can suddenly find that your parent becomes aggressive and stern, acting out of disbelief of their child disobeying them.

It’s recommended you find an intermediary to assist you whenever big decisions need to be made — ones wherein they are not in control. It will make processing the information easier for them, as they won’t take it nearly as personal as they would if it were coming from you.

Seeking professional help

The best thing you can do is seek out professional medical help. While you can help cover the basic day-to-day care of your family member, a medical professional will be able to more accurately assess their cognitive abilities and offer treatment for their disease. That professional opinion can be imperative in making decisions, providing care and more.

Furthermore, they can provide you with recommendations based upon the level of your family member’s dementia. If it has become aggressive enough, they may recommend sending them to a medical facility which treats people suffering from dementia. Moreover, they can point you in the direction of chat rooms and support groups who can offer personal assistance.

How to deal with dementia

Source: Bencemor/ Shutterstock

Taking care of your family and yourself

Living with a family member who has dementia can be difficult, but you can keep them safe without the act of caring for them taking over your life. Along with considering seeking professional medical help, a dementia ID bracelet can protect your relative in the event that they wander or become confused.

Relieve yourself of the stress of daily care. Protect your family member with a medical alert bracelet and professional care.

How to deal with dementia

It’s heartbreaking to see your loved one struggle with confusion as they get older.

If you’re caring for a dementia patient, these conversation loops are even more dispiriting–and frustrating.

But your frustration shouldn’t dictate your conversations with your loved one. Keep reading for a few tips on how to respond if your loved one repeats the same conversation over and over.

Why Does Your Loved One Repeat Themselves?

First, though, it’s important to understand why your loved one is stuck in these conversation loops.

The main cause of any behavioral change in an Alzheimer’s patient is the progressive deterioration of brain cells, which creates a steady decline in the individual’s ability to interact with the world.

In many cases, your loved one may be repeating themselves because they don’t remember that they already asked a question or completed a task. But the cause is also a bit deeper than that.

Because your loved one’s memory is deteriorating, they have an increasingly difficult time making sense of the world. This makes it harder and harder for them to find sources of comfort and familiarity.

Repeatedly asking a question or completing an action can offer a degree of reassurance and manufacture a sense of security.

It’s also possible that your loved one may be asking for help or trying to express a concern that they cannot adequately verbalize, leading them to instead repeat certain questions or actions to try to resolve the problem.

Ways to Respond to Conversation Loops

This repetition can have a detrimental effect on your loved one’s social interactions and their ability to maintain healthy relationships.

It’s also deeply frustrating for you as a caregiver, as these repeated questions or actions can make it feel as if you’re shouting into a void. You want to offer them care on a day-to-day basis, but it’s easy to feel burned out and annoyed when you have to deal with the same question eight times in a day.

Here are a few tips to help you respond when you find yourself in a conversation loop.

Respond to the Emotions, Not the Words

When your loved one repeats a question over and over, it’s important to remember that they may not be asking because they want an answer to the question, per se.

Instead, they’re seeking comfort and security, and the only way they know how to ask for it is to keep repeating the same question or action.

Rather than replying to the words, which makes it easy to get irritated, focus on what emotions might be causing the repetition and respond to those instead. Are they anxious? Confused?

If your loved one is anxious, try to soothe them with a brief hug or other comforting motion while calmly answering the question. This may help calm them enough that they don’t feel the need to continue asking.

Validation Method

Another useful tool in your arsenal is the validation method.

Keep in mind that your loved one may not know what’s going on, and they may not remember when you try to correct them, so attempting to reorient them with reality may not do any good. If anything, it may confuse them even more.

Instead of trying to snap them back to reality, acknowledge their version of what’s going on and try to gently dispel their anxieties without correcting them.

For example, if your loved one says that the wall is green, does it really do any good to tell them that the wall is actually blue? You can agree that yes, the wall looks green from this angle–you’re validating them without shrugging them off.

This can be difficult if your loved one’s beliefs are more harmful, like if they think there is a war going on because of coverage they saw on the news. Trying to dissuade them won’t help their anxiety, but you can’t pretend there’s actually a war going on, either, as this will only frighten them.

Instead, acknowledge their concerns about safety and reassure them that there’s no danger in this area and that you’ll keep them safe.

Keep Your Answers Brief

Regardless of how you deal with the situation at hand, it’s always best to keep your answers brief.

It’s tempting to answer your loved one the same way you would answer anyone else, especially if you’ve known them your whole life. But you can’t talk to someone with dementia the same way as everyone else.

You have to keep in mind that it’s difficult for someone with dementia to maintain long conversations and track long answers–they may not remember the whole answer by the time you finish giving it.

The shorter the answer, the easier it is for them to process it. This also saves you time, energy, and frustration when you have to repeat the answer six more times.

Take a Deep Breath

It’s difficult to keep your calm when you have to answer a question for the twelfth time or hear a story for the twentieth time that morning. You’re a human being, and there are limits to your patience, the same as anyone else.

There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you’re a person too. If you need to, there’s nothing wrong with taking a deep breath and removing yourself from the situation for a few minutes.

It’s frustrating, and it’s difficult to recall in the moment, but you have to remember that your loved one isn’t doing this to annoy you. Getting angry with them isn’t going to help.

Take some time to step away. Fold the laundry, check your social media feed or email, or just sit in the bathroom for a few minutes. By the time you come back, you’ll have an easier time responding with kindness.

Do You Need Help Caring for a Dementia Patient?

Caring for a dementia patient is a difficult undertaking, and it can wear on even the most patient, attentive caregiver. We know that seeking help from a memory care facility is not a decision you take lightly.

That’s why we take every step to treat your loved one with kindness while providing them with the supportive environment they need, including round-the-clock staff, an apartment-like home with premium safety features, and a group of their peers.

If you need to find a memory care facility near you, don’t hesitate to get in touch. It’s a daunting road, but you don’t need to walk it alone.