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Helping those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia maintain respect and dignity they deserve.
I’ve worked closely with those living with this terrible disease as well as meet caregivers and families who more often than not stressed and emotionally drained. I’ve been told that dealing with the effects of the disease is like taking care of a small child. I often meet family members who forget that their loved one is not a child and they have feelings too. It’s important not to treat them as children and don’t talk down to them or use baby language, or words such as “diaper.” Also, avoid having conversations about them in their presence.
How do you treat a person who drives you insane all day or can no longer recognize you with dignity and respect? Although they can no longer communicate like they once did or forgot who you are, they have feelings, have likes and also dislikes, and most importantly, they had a life with memories.
Don’t ignore them Engage them in activities they once used to enjoy and also make meals that they enjoy eating or partake in activities that they once used to like to do.
Your loved one cannot communicate effectively so asking them how they feel may not work. Instead, make sure they are comfortable, and maybe increase their sense of self-worth by playing their favorite song, or enjoying a nice walk. You may feel as if you’re caring for a small child but remember they are also adults with feelings. Give them tasks so they can feel accomplished. Tasks can be simple sorting laundry or clipping coupons. If they’re not capable of doing these tasks, play music and allow them to sit outside and enjoy the weather.
If you stay consistent with your daily routine to include the same caregivers this may reduce confusion which can lead to agitation. Enter into their world! Don’t correct them if they confuse you with someone else. I’ve met several families who get annoyed when their loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia confuses them with a spouse or deceased family member. Correcting them not only embarrasses them but also causes agitation.
Go into their truth! It won’t hurt you. For example, I met a mother and son the other day. Mom confuses her son with her ex-husband and calls him by her ex’s name. The son became so irritated and kept correcting her. She not only felt his anger towards her but she also started becoming anxious and confused. It doesn’t hurt her or anyone if she is confusing you with someone else.
Treat your elderly loved one the way you would love your own child. Guide them and gently correct them when needed. Don’t forget to respect and give them the dignity that they deserve. They did not choose to live with this sad disease and most importantly, know that if they could communicate effectively, they would do so.