Thursday, November 23, 2017

Ten Real-Life Strategies for Dementia Caregiving

As caregivers, we often use intuition to to help us decide what to do. No one ever gave us lessons on how to relate to someone with memory loss. Unfortunately, dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is counterintuitive; i.e., often the right thing to do is exactly opposite that which seems like the right thing to do. Here is some practical advice:
  • Being Reasonable, Rational, and Logical Will Just Get You into Trouble. Straightforward, simple sentences about what is going to happen are usually the best.
  • People with Dementia Do Not Need to Be Grounded in Reality.  When someone has memory loss, he often forgets important things, e.g., that his mother is deceased.  Redirecting and asking someone to tell you about the person he has asked about or about his home is a better way to calm a person with dementia.
  • Therapeutic Lying Reduces Stress.  Is it okay to tell your loved one that the two of you are going out to lunch and then “coincidentally” stop by the doctor’s office on the way home to pick something up as a way to get her to the doctor?
  • Making Agreements Doesn’t Work.  If you ask your loved one to not do something ever again, or to remember to do something, it will soon be forgotten. Taking action, rearranging the environment, rather than talking and discussing, is usually a more successful approach. For example, getting a tea kettle with an automatic “off” switch is better than warning someone of the dangers of leaving the stove on. 
  • Doctors Often Need to Be Educated By You.   Telling the doctor what you see at home is important. The doctor can’t tell during an examination that your loved one has been up all night pacing. Sometimes doctors, too, need to deal with therapeutic lying; e.g., telling the patient that an antidepressant is for memory rather than depression.
  • You Cannot Be a Perfect Caregiver.    Learning to forgive your loved one as well as yourself is essential in the caregiving journey.

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