When a senior is diagnosed with dementia, family and friends often step in to assist. Because it’s an illness that presents so many unique challenges, caregiving usually requires the support of several loved ones—not only to keep the senior safe and well cared for but also because dementia can be physically and emotionally challenging for everyone involved.
Watching someone you love struggle with communication skills, memory, coordination and other side effects is tough. As is finding ways to keep them safe. Let’s explore some of the best practices for communicating with a loved one who has memory loss, as well as some suggestions to help your family work together to provide support.
Communicating With a Loved One Who Has Memory Loss
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or a similar type of dementia often requires loved ones to become good listeners and pay attention to body language and other nonverbal cues. It also means meeting the senior in their reality, instead of trying to reorient them to yours.
One suggestion is to avoid arguing over meaningless issues. Listen with sincerity and let the person try to express their thoughts. As their disease progresses and verbal skills decline, that might take longer. Trying to understand the emotions they are struggling to convey, even when the words might not make sense, can also help. Approach your loved one with kind facial expressions, positive language and a gentle demeanor.
Redirection is another good practice for family caregivers to use when a loved one is exhibiting challenging behaviors. Instead of repeatedly correcting or arguing with them, change the subject. Redirecting their attention might help you move beyond the situation.
Caring for Your Loved One With Dementia
A few more tips you might find useful in supporting a senior with dementia include:
- Learn about their disease: Knowing what to expect now and as the disease progresses allows families to develop a care plan. Disease education also allows loved ones to learn how to recognize new symptoms and behaviors that might require intervention or a change in safety measures.
- Create a safe home environment: Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia can cause physical changes, such as an unsteady gait or loss of peripheral vision, that put people at risk for falls. That’s why it’s important to assess their environment for hazards such as throw rugs, clutter, uneven stair treads and more.
- Organize activities to support success: Structured days allow people with memory loss to feel independent. Having a routine to follow, in addition to life enrichment activities, gives people struggling with memory and communication an opportunity to be productive. Art and music therapy are two activities that have proven benefits for people with dementia.
- Keep expectations realistic: Setting reasonable goals is also important. While the senior might not be able to do as much as they once did, you can take steps to help them feel empowered. For example, by placing photos on drawers or cupboards that show what they contain, you’ll make it easier for a loved one with dementia to help with dishes or meal preparation.
- Plan a healthy lifestyle: Good physical health is essential for people with dementia. This includes adapting menus to incorporate healthy, easy-to-eat foods, such as chicken bites or sliders. Explore different fitness programs, like chair yoga or walking. Encourage hydration throughout the day.
- Make time for yourself: Have someone you can lean on and talk to, whether it’s a friend or someone in a caregiver support group you’ve joined. It’s also important to take regular time out to relax and care for your own well-being. Enlist help from family members or utilize respite services at a memory care community.
Remember, the most effective caregiver is someone who is well-informed, prepared for what lies ahead and willing to ask for help when they need it.
Learn More About Memory Care at ASC
When a loved one needs dementia care, American Senior Communities offers a variety of options, from short-term respite to solutions for mid-stage and advanced stages of the disease. To find a memory care near you, visit our website.