Dementia care requires caregivers to have a deep commitment to empathy and compassion. It also requires taking caregiving approaches that are uniquely tailored to people who have dementia.
Dementia is a brain disease with symptoms of memory loss, personality changes, impaired reasoning, and extreme mood fluctuation. It most commonly affects seniors and there are many different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common type. Dementia care is a specialized form of caregiving that enables people with dementia to age with as much comfort and dignity as possible.
Best Approaches to Dementia Care
Due to the complexity of the disease, approaches to dementia care require a lot of education, knowledge, and training. These ten approaches to dementia care below demonstrate how to best care for someone who has dementia and how to avoid responses that could make dementia symptoms worse.
1. Get support, never go it alone. Trying to be the sole caregiver of someone with dementia can lead to burnout. Dementia care requires a team approach. Family caregivers will benefit from the help of home caregivers who are specifically trained in caring for people who have dementia. It is also important to communicate with family members and friends and with a reputable home care agency.
2. Agree, never argue. People who have dementia often get confused, but trying to correct them can lead to anger and frustration and can make the confusion worse. Agreeing (so long as it is physically safe to do so) will create a more calming environment.
3. Divert, never reason. It is common for people who have dementia to forget how to do certain things. The intention of reasoning with them may come from a place of care, but it must be understood that the cognitive processing of a person who has dementia is impaired. A better approach is to divert the person’s attention to something else.
4. Distract, never shame. If a person who has dementia gets upset or frustrated by their own actions, take the approach of highlighting something positive.
5. Reassure, never lecture. It may be tempting to lecture about the right way to do something, especially when a person with dementia is in a moment of lucidity. However, this can set them up for failure if they are unable to fully understand or carry out what is being lectured. Instead, reassure them that they are doing the best they can, that they have help, and that they have people who care. This will help build confidence and a sense of support.
6. Reminisce, never say “remember”. Dementia clouds and changes memories. It can take a great deal of effort for a person with dementia to remember or recall something. A better approach is to offer thoughtful prompts and to not be attached to the outcome if the person is still unable to remember.
7. Repeat, never say “I told you so”. The phrase “I told you so” sets people up to feel shame. When a person has dementia, it is not their fault that they behave a certain way or if they can’t remember something. These are symptoms of the disease. Instead, offer positive words and support as much as possible and focus on the successes.
8. Ask, never demand. Someone with dementia may be able to function as they normally would part of the time, but other times may struggle when symptoms are more present. Gently asking, and not getting frustrated if they cannot complete the task, is more appropriate than making a demand.
9. Encourage, never condescend. The “tough love” approach is a big no-no when it comes to quality dementia care services. Scolding or reprimanding can lead to shame, anger, frustration, and insecurity — all of which will make dementia symptoms worse. Look for opportunities for encouragement whenever possible and always be mindful of taking a more gentle tone.
10. Reinforce, never force. Caring for someone who has dementia is tough and can be particularly frustrating when there is a task that must be completed, such as getting the person to take their medication. Forcing the situation, even if the task is important, can lead to even more difficulties. Instead, find ways to reinforce and strengthen the tactics of what needs to be done. For example, people respond well to habit forming, even when they have dementia, so helping someone take their medication at the same time and in the same setting everyday will reinforce the habit and make the task easier.
Receive Quality Dementia Care Services
The caregivers at Alegre Home Care go through extensive dementia care and memory care training. We are one of the only home care agencies specializing in dementia care within Northern California. Dementia is a debilitating and heartbreaking disease. You and your loved ones deserve the best possible care. Get in touch with Alegre Home Care with any questions and to start receiving high quality, specialized home care services.