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What To Avoid When Speaking With Someone Who Has Dementia

In recent years, those who live with dementia are leading fuller, more active lives than they may have done in previous decades. Treatment is more readily available, and though there is no known cure as yet, the general public are better informed in how to approach those who have it.

But if you’ve not met someone who has dementia before, there are a few easy mistakes to make which can be embarrassing and distressing for everyone involved. Below are a few things to avoid when conversing with someone who has dementia.

Recall

One of the most difficult symptoms of dementia to navigate is the loss of full recall (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11826-memory-loss-signs-of-dementia–more-). Many people with dementia can become very distressed and embarrassed when asked a direct question about past events that they have difficulty remembering. Sometimes the inability to recall can be very slight or can be dramatic.

“If a person with dementia talks about a subject that shows they are having difficulty recalling, you should ask yourself whether it is truly necessary,” writes Stephen James, an author at Academized and PaperFellows. “If you do need to help them remember something, avoid asking them directly, and talk, instead, about what you remember about an event or story.”

Confusing Directions

Dementia can affect verbal cognition. Remember that if a person with dementia is having difficulty understanding an instruction, continuing to repeat that instruction is likely to confuse them further. If you need a person with dementia to perform a series of actions, such as putting on a coat and shoes and getting into a car, listing them off in one go is going to overwhelm them.

Instead, give clear direction for each task you want them to do. It is important to issue them as directions rather than questions as they may have difficulty understanding the context for each action.

Complex Language

In fact, it is a good idea to modify your language over all. Even those who have had a large vocabulary may have difficulty fully comprehending long winding sentences. Using complex words and difficult phrases is likely to cause confusion which, in turn, can lead to embarrassment and irritation.

Instead, use simple sentences with uncomplicated words. Having said that, remember that dementia doesn’t affect a person’s IQ, so it is also important not to become condescending.

Emotional Subjects

Living with dementia can be distressing enough without someone constantly reminding you of all you may not recall. If you are speaking with someone who lives with dementia it is important to avoid conversations which may make them emotional. This can include correcting aspects of their lives that they may not recall, or distressing events such as a loved one’s death which they may not remember.

It is best to avoid conversing on explosives subjects such as politics or religion,” says Jane Renbourne, a regular contributor to Custom Writing Service and BigAssignments. “Though they may be able to recall aspects of this, those who live with dementia have difficulty dealing with conflict. Even what seems like a slight disagreement may spiral out of control. “

Impatience

Most importantly of all, it is important to remain as patient as can be when interacting with a person living with dementia. Showing haste to complete their sentences, telling them things you think they should remember and disrespecting their need to communicate for themselves is as upsetting as it is with anyone else. Remember that however difficult adapting to dementia is for the observer, it can be a constant source of frustration for the person who has it.

However, if you show some understanding and patience, there is no reason that both you and your friend with dementia cannot spend some wonderful and meaningful times together.

 

Finding Meaning After the Caring Is Over.…

Real patient experiences shared privately at www.TreatmentDiaries.com. Read more, share if you like or join in the conversation. Making sure you feel less alone navigating a diagnosis is important. Connecting you to those who can relate and provide support is what we do.

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It’s almost six months since mom died. I still am in a vulnerable place. Still trying to work, but not seeking it aggressively. Still trying to find my path forward. I had a bad fall about a month ago, and I’m still recovering. My knees, legs and feet are not right. Through no fault of my own, I lost my health insurance. As of today, I get to choose my plan on the exchange, and hope to get back what I lost, keep my doctor, and get back on track.
treatmentdiaries-dec
In this weird time, I have learned something about myself. Through caregiving, I learned to be still. During the worst times before mom came to live
with us, I had to literally sit still in her apartment, and just be there when she was full of fear, hallucinating, paranoid. During the worst times of her dementia, when I was searching for information, help, connection, I found power in stillness. Overpowering my own fear. Being strong for her. It took years, moving her here with my husband and myself, fighting for everything she needed. She gained so much here. The return of her sweetness and fine sense of humor, the conquering of her fears, the benefit of community.

Fast forward to the last days of caregiving. More than six years later, mom had become so frail. At the end we brought in a hospital bed, supposedly to keep her safely in bed. What the universe didn’t know was that this tiny woman had the power to launch herself over the bars, or through the openings between the rail and the foot of the bed, and end up in her old bed, sitting in her wheelchair, or even curled up on the floor. I never had sleep. I never knew what or where she’d be when I went into her room. I needed to be on guard to hear her soft raspy voice call me at any moment.

But the thing that frightened me most and what I HAD to face and get over, was the fear of infantizing my mom, by changing her depends in the hospital bed. This fear was causing us to get up at any hour, and take her into the bathroom, where I had to hold her up with one arm and tend to her with the other. It was hard on her, she was too weak to support herself. It was hard on me, my shoulder was already compromised from the years of supporting her or steering her walker, among so many other things.

This fear grew out of caring for my dad years before, who had Parkinson’s, and was so angry at his loss of dignity. My brother and I have terrible memories of tending to him, and falling over with laughter when things went wrong. My dad was so angry. I loved my dad more than anything, and incurring his anger left me scarred.

So when faced with having to change my mom in her hospital bed, I avoided it as long as I possibly could. But finally, I asked the visiting hospice nurse (more about this later) to show me how. I learned a few tricks from her. But I still had to get over my fear of insulting her dignity. Mom was not like this. She didn’t seem to be angry that her daughter was changing her, holding her up. She was fighting her own weakness. She might not have known who I was at these moments. And mom had her sense of humor intact. Till the very end. This was her gift.

The night I finally changed her in the bed, I decided to reward us both at every turn with cheering! Praising her to the skies when she could turn over on her side, praising myself with my ability to do every task! Praising us both with loud cheering! Good for you! Good for me! Hooray for us! Hooray!

Now you may think this is a little nuts. And maybe it is. But by gaining courage through humor, I think I have found meaning and conquered my greatest enduring fear.