Dementia Care Dos and Don’ts
Watching someone you love suffer from dementia can be extremely troubling and often unnerving. Without warning, your normally quiet and rational mother may begin screaming and yelling or even become violent. Even if you know that it is her illness speaking, it can still be difficult to know how to respond to these outbursts. Though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, being prepared with an appropriate reaction can help avoid and shorten the length of these incidents.
Sometimes, a patient in dementia care will respond to the most simple requests such as taking medication or sitting at the table, with sudden and unexpected aggression. This could be limited to yelling but it can often also include physical violence such as throwing things or even pushing or hitting their caregiver or others around them. These tantrums often stem from fear, so arguing or restraining the person is not only ineffective but it can actually cause them to panic more, creating an increased strain on their mental health. Instead, try to identify any possible triggers or injuries that might result in anxiety or pain so you can create a solution. It is entirely possible that their mind has just wandered and created a situation that is not real. In that case, it is usually best to give them space and time to see their feelings through and be there for them when they are calmer.
When faced with tasks that they do not want to do, adults with Alzheimer’s may attempt to strike a bargain, making false promises in exchange for exhibiting the desired behavior. If their mental health has declined significantly, they may no longer be able to distinguish between truth and lies and this might not exhibit any guilt or remorse for such behavior. It is pointless to argue or attempt to prove that they are lying. Manipulation is often a coping mechanism used to regain control, so focus instead on finding other ways for your loved one to exhibit their autonomy and independence.
Over the course of their illness, the brain cells of dementia patients deteriorate and they find that they are not able to complete tasks or remember facts that used to be very simple. These instances can be short-lived or permanent depending on the person and may lead to very irrational and potentially unsafe behaviors such as hoarding or repeating themselves or completely forgetting to do crucial things like paying their bills. Accusing them of not being capable of doing things on their own will only upset them further and they are likely not to believe you, since they may not be aware of their shortcomings. Instead, make a habit of keeping track of the important things like bills and bank accounts so you can notice red flags as soon as they happen and work together with them to find compassionate and respectful solutions.
It is very common for dementia care patients to become disoriented and forget where they are and what they are doing. They might not recognize you or other loved ones or regular caregivers, resulting in paranoid behaviors. Reasoning with the person is not possible at that point and the priority is to make them feel safe and less confused. Answer their questions with very simple responses, using photos or other tangible items to explain the situation without accusing or further confusing them.
It may be difficult to accept, but a loved one living with dementia is not going to get better. Although we hope to someday see a cure, there is no such remedy yet and the disease continually progresses. There often comes a point when more medical care is needed than what can be provided at home. In such cases, it may be beneficial to look into a reputable long-term care facility to meet your loved one’s needs. Contact the compassionate and caring staff at Princeton Health Care Center today to learn if our facility may be able to benefit your loved one and family.