The key to providing care for a person with dementia is to understand that they see the world differently than you do, and the world they see is real to them. This can sometimes make communicating with them somewhat challenging. However, it can be easier when you keep it positive.
- Always treat adults as adults.
- Face them and make eye contact. Avoid trying to have conversations in loud places or with distractions such as crowds or the TV.
- Try to keep TV viewing and other entertainment light and upbeat. People with dementia can sometimes get confused between reality and what they see on TV.
- Speak slowly and clearly, using one question or statement at a time.
- Answer questions starting with a positive, such as “yes!” and then redirect. For example, when your loved one thinks you are someone else, try gentle redirection such as “I haven’t seen ‘Joe,’ but I’m here, I’m ‘Mary.’”
- Use positive language. Instead of phrases like “Don’t go there,” try “Let’s go here.”
- Avoid challenging or closed-ended questions. Instead of saying “Don’t you know where you are?” ask, “Can I help you with something?”
- Avoid asking or telling them to remember something. That may trigger an aggressive response.
- If you need to walk away from a stressful situation with your loved one, do so. Separation will calm you down, which, in turn, will to the same for them.
Someone with dementia sees the world differently. As a caregiver, you can help create an environment that is both comfortable and comforting, and protects your loved one from common hazards. Since dementia can affect vision, adding contrast to the environment will help your loved one get around and identify things around the house. For example, use a brightly colored seat on a white toilet, or use different color dishes and silverware. However, keep in mind that rugs and patterns in carpets or tile that are in contrasting colors may cause your loved one to misidentify them as holes or steps.