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Caring For a Loved One’s with Dementia – Capital City Nurses
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging in many ways. Dementia causes a decline in memory that interferes with an individual's ability to perform daily meaningful tasks or activities. It can also influence behavior and temperament, making communication difficult for families, friends, and dementia caregivers. Therefore, learning how to effectively communicate can help to increase participation in a functional task, decrease the stressors of care taking, and most importantly, strengthen a relationship (Family Caregiver Alliance, 2013).
This blog will provide 7 communication strategies from Capital City Nurses to interact effectively with a loved one with dementia.
1. Encourage a conversation
a. Give your loved ones the ability to communicate their needs or thoughts.
b. Try not to correct or point out the obvious, this will only cause increased confusion or unwanted behaviors.
c. Mentioning comments like "oh wow, how nice!" or "that’s great!” will help to promote a sense of reassurance.
2. Keep it simple
a. Be as literal as possible.
b. Short and simple sentences or commands can assist with processing the information provided.
c. Give adequate time to process information for a response. It may take as long as 50 seconds. For example: I had a patient once take 40 seconds to respond to the cue of “place your hands on the armrests of the chair before standing up.”
d. Providing a one-step command such as “take a bite” or “put your shirt on” can help increase follow-through.
3. Monitor your tone of voice and maintain a pleasant demeanor
a. Try your best to maintain eye contact, keep your distance, and provide a welcoming facial expression.
b. Get down to the level of the person if they are sitting and avoid raising your voice.
c. It is scary when your mind does not process or think the way it used to, and a common reaction comes in many forms of unwanted behavior. It is important to not show frustration or anger in these moments and remember that it is not their fault!
4. Use other forms of communication
a. Provide visual cues, pictures, or modeling
b. For example, model how to put on a shirt or utilize a picture of a toilet to identify a bathroom
c. These non-verbal interactions can increase or validate a statement or command given.
5. Avoid open ended questions
a. Instead, ask yes/no questions or offer choices.
b. Depending on where the individual is in the disease process, questions may be overwhelming. Questions may need to be stated as “let’s go to the restroom” vs “do you need to use the bathroom?” or “let’s get some lunch" vs “are you hungry?” At the advanced stages of dementia, the normal triggers for needs may not be felt or understood. This where our services for Alzheimer’s and dementia care in Bethesda, MD, can assist both the senior as well as the family.
a. Perseveration is a common symptom of dementia, especially in the early stages. This occurs when an individual remains fixated on a certain word, thought, or motion. This happens because he/she may not understand how to move on to the next step or thought (Rosenzweig, 2021).
b. At these times, it’s best to be patient and seek to slowly redirect to a favorite interest or activity.
7. Consistency is key
a. Maintain the same procedure, routine, or verbal instructions for activities or functional tasks. Our companion care program at Capital City Nurses helps to create these routines for your loved one.
b. Dementia prohibits an individual from sequencing, planning, initiating, or terminating a task or command. Familiarity is important as it encourages calmness and decreases unwanted behaviors and other stressors that come with living in a state of confusion (Alzheimer’s Project, 2020).
We hope you find these tips helpful as a dementia caregiver. If you are caring for a loved one with Dementia alone or feel that he/she may need additional support, you may benefit from our Alzheimer’s and dementia care or companion care services. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to give us a call at Capital City Nurses!