I’ve received several inquiries about how to handle specific situations involving someone with a dementia illness, so this column is all about helpful strategies/tips for living with a loved one who has some form of dementia/Alzheimer’s. How we communicate is vastly different from what we are used to doing and no two cases are exactly the same. Being reasonable, rational and logical doesn’t work with these illnesses. A long explanation in any situation will just confuse and upset your loved one; using simple sentences about what is happening works best. The brain no longer has the ability to respond to logical arguments/statements and arguing will only cause distress for both of you. I’ve assembled helpful information from several sources and come up with this list of suggestions to guide you through some common situations.
•Therapeutic lying (fiblets) can reduce stress and anxiety. People tend to be meticulously honest about most everything pertaining to caring for a loved one. This approach when used with someone who has dementia will lead to distress for both of you.
•Someone with dementia doesn’t need to be grounded in reality. Reminding someone of important events such as the passing of loved ones will only cause pain so try redirecting the conversation. Instead try asking about the person he/she asked about.
•Making agreements with your loved one won’t work. In the early stages of dementia, leaving reminder notes, etc. can sometimes help but as the disease progresses you will need to change your methods.
•Limit the number of choices your loved one has to make. If your loved one can’t decide what to wear, lessen the choices to one or two outfits and hang them on the closet door or lay them on the dresser. Instead of asking someone if they’re hungry or ready for dinner, simply tell them when dinner is ready and walk with them to the table.
•Often it’s easier/quicker for us to do something for a loved one that will allow them to do it themselves and there are pros and cons to this.
I hope you’ll find these few scenarios helpful as you navigate these always changing times in your role of caregiving. There are numerous other situations you will find yourself working through and resources available to help you through them. If you’re someone who uses the internet, there are many sites that offer information and support; listed below are a couple of sites I found to be very informative: www.helpguide.org or www.alz.org/vermont. You can also get support from your physician, Central Vermont Council on Aging (CVCOA) and Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice (CVHH&H).
Becoming part of a Caregiving Support Group is also very helpful; listed below are some events coming up in the Central Vermont area for caregivers:
Caregiver Teas, Friday, Feb. 5th and Apr. 1st from 2:00 – 3:00 pm, held at the CVCOA offices in Barre. Call 802.476.2681 to RSVP.
Montpelier Memory Café, Saturday, Feb. 13th, Mar. 12th and Apr. 9th from 10:00 – 11:30 am, held at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center. Call 802.476.2681 for information.
Powerful Tools for Caregivers, 6 Thursdays, Mar. 24th to Apr. 28th from 2:00 – 4:00 pm, held at CVCOA offices in Barre. Call 802.476.2681 to register.
Project Independence Caregiver Support Group, first Wednesday of each month (Feb. 3rd, Mar. 2nd, Apr. 6th, etc.) from 4:30 – 6:00 pm, held at 81 North Main St. in Barre. Staff will be available to care for your loved one, if you need to bring him/her with you. Please call 802.476.3630 to let us know you’re coming or for more information.
Note: Special thanks to Sherill Bover-Cheney for producing such a wonderful booklet – Compassionate Strategies for Dementia Caregiving. Most of the information in this article comes from that booklet and through Sherill’s generosity; PI has some of these available. Contact us at 802.476.3630 for more details.
If you have topics you’d like more information on or questions you’d like answered, please email me: DearGrace@pibarre.org or write me: Dear Grace, c/o Project Independence, 81 N. Main Street – Suite 1, Barre, VT 05641-4283