Reminders and reason just won’t work
When caring for an older adult with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s instinctive to try to bring them back into reality.
When they say something that doesn’t make sense, you’ll want to remind them of the facts or ask them to remember previous conversations or events.
What most caregivers don’t know is that this approach often makes the situation worse.
Logical explanations cause agitation and anger
Having Alzheimer’s or dementia is scary and confusing for your older adult. Using logic and reason to explain why you’re right and they’re wrong is likely to make them agitated, defensive, angry, or act out with difficult behavior.
Instead, the best thing you can do is not try to bring them back into reality.
Do’s and don’ts for how to respond
When your senior says something that doesn’t make sense or is completely untrue, use these do’s and don’ts to help you respond in a way that keeps them calm.
These tips have been tried and tested by an Alzheimer’s support group leader with 20+ years of experience.
- Respect and join them in their new reality – it’s the one their brain has created
- Respond to the emotion or intention behind the words
- Gently distract them with an activity they enjoy
- Redirect the conversation to a pleasant, positive, or neutral topic
- Use therapeutic fibbing – agree with things that aren’t true or bend the truth in harmless ways if it calms the situation
- Without words, find ways to assure them that they’re safe and cared for – hugs or gentle touching often works well
- Force them to live in our reality
- Respond with logic and reason
- Pay strict attention to their words – they may not actually mean what they say
- Keep trying to convince them to see or do things your way
- Say “Don’t you remember?”
- Say “No, you’re wrong.”
- Say “Don’t do that.”
- Tell them that people they’re talking about or wanting to see have already passed away
Don’t be discouraged if your attempts to soothe or redirect don’t work every time. This is a skill that improves with practice. In time, you’ll figure out what works best for your senior.
Using reason and logic to explain reality to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia doesn’t work. Paying attention to the emotions rather than the words helps you uncover their true needs.
Instead of arguing, shift the mood to something more calm and positive. You’ll thank yourself when you don’t have to get into the same screaming match for the 38th time.
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Creating Moments of Joy
Jolene Brackey has a vision. A vision that will soon look beyond the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and focus more of our energy on creating moments of joy. When a person has short-term memory loss, his life is made up of moments. But if you think about it, our memory is made up of moments, too.
We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day with someone who has dementia, but it is absolutely attainable to create a perfectly wonderful moment; a moment that puts a smile on their face, a twinkle in their eye, or triggers a memory.
Five minutes later, they won’t remember what you did or said, but the feeling you left them with will linger.
Do you have experience or tips you can share about caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s disease? Please share in the comment section.
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