Facing life with a dementia diagnosis can bring about a whole mixture of emotions – for both the recipient and their family and friends. The different stages of dementia mean that the condition progresses over a period of time, and consequently the diagnosed individual can, therefore, live a relatively ‘normal’ life – at least for the first few years. When the illness progresses, it’s essential that the individual is given round-the-clock care. Memory loss is one of the more predominant symptoms of dementia, but, in the later stages, this can evoke behaviour and personality changes. Whilst this can be alarming and unsettling for the caregivers, it’s important to know how best to deal with this, so that you can maintain a positive relationship with your loved one.
There are dementia friendly ways that you, as a family member, can adapt your approach to interacting with your loved one, that will make it easier for everybody involved.
Never underestimate the value of non-verbal communication
Particularly in the later stages of dementia, verbal communication with your loved one can be difficult to achieve. There’s a lot to be said for body language, facial expressions and non-verbal cues, which can act as mutually understandable ways of conveying your desired message. Whether that’s by smiling to show that you’re their friend no matter what, or gently touching them to show your affection, it’s important to get used to using this method of communication. Where you do use verbal communication, make sure to speak to your loved one in a respectful and positive manner.
Simplify your loved one’s activities into a few small steps
Making a list of your loved one’s daily activities, such as getting dressed or going to do the grocery shopping, can make daily errands more manageable for them. It’s common for someone with dementia to forget tasks that they carry out every day – so this will really help to make the process a lot less complicated for them. Take this opportunity to try and make life choices as simple as possible – so, ensure that you’re only allowing them a choice of two to three outfits or meal options each day.
Use visual cues
As your loved one’s memory deteriorates, make use of visual cues. Leaving written reminders around the house is a great way to help your loved one remember daily tasks – whether that’s leaving a reminder of the time that you’ll be visiting each day, or the time that they’ll be eating dinner.
Keep your loved one engaged
One of the best things you can do for your loved one is to involve them in your daily tasks – such as walking the dog and gardening. This is a great form of distraction, and can help you and your loved one to cope with the repetitive symptoms of dementia – such as repeating words, phrases and questions.
Focus on relationships with others
It’s vital to try and keep relationships alive for your loved one. Dementia can often cause a change in relationships, and can cause its sufferers to become isolated from others. Try to keep them engaged – which can involve taking them to a social group.
If you, as a family member, take on the ‘carer’ role for your loved one, you’ll notice a change in your relationship as you take on more responsibilities. However, it’s important to keep in mind the previous relationship you had, and continue to instil a good sense of humour and affection. This will ensure that your loved one continues to have a good quality of life.