Dementia is not a specific disease. Many dementias are progressive, meaning they start out slowly and gradually get worse. The National Health Institute estimates that 3.4 million Americans age 71 and older – 1 in 7 Americans in that age group – have dementia.
These facts make it apparent that all senior care providers will at one time or another work with and provide care for patients suffering from this condition. Caring for seniors with this condition can be difficult, frustrating and stressful. It is important to know what works and what doesn’t when addressing a resident who suffers from any stage of dementia.
These 5 quick tips can make a significant difference in the way you approach residents suffering from dementia and will also assist in providing more positive outcomes in your interactions.
1. Don’t quiz them
Imagine how upsetting it would be to not remember basic information you have known your whole life. Irritating, right? Now, imagine how it would feel to constantly be asked questions to test your ability to remember. Talk about throwing gas on the fire. Instead of asking a resident “Do you remember her name?” “Can you tell me what you had for lunch?”, “What day is it today?” try a different approach. “Oh, look over there. It’s Anna.” “The pasta at lunch today looked really good.” “I can’t believe it’s already Thursday.” Being helpful rather than potentially causing frustration can go a long way with your residents.
2. Don’t talk to them like they are children
No adult wants to have someone approach them and talk to them in a song-like tone with child-like phrases. Getting really close and invading their space only compounds the situation. Even when seniors are struggling with memory, they can become very irritable and upset when they are treated like children, and understandably so. Using words like “hon” and “sweetie” are not necessary. Use their name. It’s recognizable … it’s something they have had their whole lives. And it shows them respect.
3. Don’t talk about them like they aren’t there
Just because a patient suffers from dementia doesn’t mean they lost their ability to hear. Talking about them while they are sitting right there is not only disrespectful, it can also be embarrassing and upsetting to your resident. If you need to address a matter regarding your resident with another staff member, find a time to do it in private.
4. Don’t assume every day will be the same
Dementia can be very misleading. One day a resident may not be able to recall anything, and the next day they may remember specific information and may even recall that someone is coming to visit after lunch. Approach every day as a new day with new opportunities. Some days are sure to surprise you.
5. Think about how you would like to be treated
When it comes to providing residents with the best possible care, the best thing you can do is try to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself “How would I like to be treated?” If you are always putting them first and using careful consideration when you interact with your residents, you can’t go wrong.