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Tips for Living with Dementia or Alzheimer's

Adjusting to life with dementia and Alzheimer’s  

If a loved one of yours has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the impact on daily interactions can be significant.   As the disease progresses, it will become more difficult to communicate with your loved one.  Here are some tips for relating to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

In the early stages of the disease, ask how your loved one how he or she prefers to communicate.  Ask them if they prefer to communicate in person, over the phone, or through text or email.  Try to be as accommodating as possible. 

If your loved one struggles to find words, do not try to correct them or show frustration.  Be patient and try to understand what they are trying to communicate.  Focus in on hand or body gestures in addition to the words.  Look into their eyes when you speak to them and talk slowly.  Try to eliminate background noise and distractions.  

As the disease progresses, your loved one will become more confused.  When someone says something that we know to be inaccurate, it is natural to try to correct them.  Limit it to attempting to understand what they are trying to communicate.  Do not argue with someone that has dementia or Alzheimer’s.   This will only cause that person to become more frustrated and possibly agitated. 

You may witness behaviors that do not match your long history of living with this person.  Remember that dementia or Alzheimer’s is a disease.   The disease may produce behaviors or actions that they cannot control.  If they become overly agitated or aggressive, try to direct them.  Change the subject to a topic that has positive connections for them or attempt to engage them in a familiar activity (e.g. walking the dog, cleaning the kitchen, etc.). 

If the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s is physically aggressive, or is sexually inappropriate, use direct language to let them know that this is unacceptable.  Be forceful but do not get angry with them.  If necessary, further diffuse the situation by leaving the room or redirecting to a new topic.  Remember that it is the disease driving this behavior.  It may remove filters that previously prevented thoughts from becoming socially unacceptable actions or words. 

Over time, your loved one may forget faces and names of family members and friends.  This is obviously very difficult to experience.  It can be heart breaking.  From the onset of the disease, try to use photographs and stories to help connect people in their lives.  Music is a very powerful tool for stimulating memories.  Play music that your loved one listed to in his or her youth or prime of their life.  The change that it invokes in them can be immediate and striking.  Not only does it stimulate memory, music can also act to calm the person down when they are agitated. 

Daily life with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be challenging for both the individual and his or her loved ones.  It puts a lot of demands on time and emotions.  At SYNERGY HomeCare, we provide assistance for those dealing with the disease, from periodic respite for family up to daily 24-hour care and safety supervision.