Coping with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be difficult for everyone. Frustration when messages are not understood, a lack of awareness of time and place or a diminishing sense of self can lead to feelings of frustration, anger and fear by both the individual suffering from the disease as well as by the care giver.
Keep in mind that early-stage individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia are often easily frustrated because they are aware of their limitations. As the disease progresses, those individuals may then experience every day as a new day, every person as a new face and every activity as a new experience.
- Introduce yourself. This does not have to be a formal introduction but by providing some context for your relationship as well as your name, it will help reduce anxiety and awkwardness in case you are not immediately recognized.
- Treat the person with respect, like an adult, not a child. Although some symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Dementia may rob individuals of memories and knowledge of basic skills, they are still an adult and will likely be able to sense your mood and attitude.
- Try to speak calmly, slowly and positively. Start your sentences on a positive note, such as “let’s do…” and then explain whatever it is you would like to do, rather than using a negative tone of “don’t do, or let’s not do….”
- Use complete direct sentences to express yourself. For example, “Let’s sit on this bench for a little while and enjoy the view.”
- Provide a few options if the individual is having difficulty making a decision. For example, an open-ended question, such as, “what would you like to eat for lunch,” may cause confusion or frustration. If that happens, try providing more specific choices, such as, “would you like tomato soup and a turkey sandwich or a small salad with grilled chicken and some chicken noodle soup for lunch?”
- Validate, acknowledge and empathize feelings. Let the person know that it is okay to feel sad, upset, confused, lonely or whatever emotion they may be expressing. Everyone has emotions and being able to share them and feel understood may even help diffuse a difficult or overly emotional situation.
- Give compliments, praise and cues to reinforce positive feelings, sense of accomplishment and independence. Depending upon your relationship, hugging and affectionate touches between you is also important and helps maintain both a physical and mental connection.
There are many resources available for anyone dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia, starting with your family doctor. The Alzheimer’s Association, the National Institute on Aging and the National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center also provide a wealth of information.
If the time has come when you or your loved one can no longer live independently, please contact CalRegistry for help finding the best elder care options for your family.