How to Mindfully Care for Someone with Dementia
Caring for someone with dementia is a full-time job. It requires the ability to multitask and to diligently care for someone who may not be able to communicate their needs. We understand the toll this responsibility can take on caregivers. In order to relieve some of the stress, we’ve compiled a collection of tips to help you navigate this undertaking. We’ve divided these into four categories of situations you may experience when taking care of someone with dementia: agitation, communication, confusion, and incontinence.
- Create an environment your patient can feel comfortable in. Make their living space easy to navigate and be sure their belongings are easy to reach. If the patient has been moved out of their home, emulate certain aspects of their home in order to invoke familiarity.
- Approach situations calmly and with patience. Never directly contradict anything your patient says. Instead, gently redirect the conversation to where it needs to be.
- Allow them to feel as though they are in control. Patients don’t want to feel coddled or as though they don’t have a say in their own lives—especially when they don’t understand the circumstances.
- Make sure you’ve gained your patient’s full attention before speaking to them. Use clear, short sentences when speaking and take the time to help them understand what you’re saying.
- Avoid yes or no questions, instead choosing ones that require decisive responses.
- Learn to read physical forms of communication. At times, dementia patients may not be able to express their needs verbally; this is often because they aren’t personally aware of their own needs. You may only be able to identify certain needs through their body language.
- Dementia patients often have a difficult time coming to terms with things because they aren’t aware of where they are in time. Try to figure out where they currently believe they are and adjust your demeanor accordingly.
- Change the environment. Your patient may be taken aback by loud noises or uncomfortable temperatures. Bring your patient to a different area and try to navigate their confusion there.
- Reassure your patient. Let them know that you’re on the same page and that you’re willing to hear them out and aid them in better understanding things.
- As many as 70% of dementia patients suffer from incontinence. This is often due to the fact that they’re unaware of their need to relieve themselves. Set up a schedule and frequently ask them if they need to use the restroom.
- Make sure they’re comfortable. Outfit your patient in easy-to-remove pants with an elastic waistband. If they have to wear waterproof underwear, be sure to invest in a brand designed to feel like regular undergarments.
- Make sure they can find the bathroom. At home, map out a clear path to the restroom. You can even use colored duct tape on the floor to direct them.