If you are responsible for the care of a senior loved one, you know that it can be hard at times. Whether struggling to communicate or dealing with erratic outbursts, the emotional roller coaster can be draining and tough to navigate. In fact, the number one complaint of senior caregivers is feeling burnt out, unappreciated and alone.
If you are committed to caring for a loved one but need some ideas as to better manage the situation, here are some of our top suggestions.
Tips for Caregivers
If you are responsible for the care for an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient, here are some ideas to make the job easier.
1. Maintain eye contact: Always stand (or sit) directly in front of the patient and make eye contact when speaking with them. Approaching from the side or behind when speaking can startle them. Use their name if needed to catch their attention, as you can communicate better if their focus is on you.
2. Go to their level: Make sure you are on the same level as your charge, even if you have to sit or kneel down. Standing over them when speaking can be intimidating or even scary. They won’t be concentrating on what you are saying, instead likely focusing on their anxious feelings.
3. Give advance notice of activity: Announce what you are going to do next, especially if it involves touching the patient. Memory care patients often mistake helpful guidance for grabbing or inappropriately touching them.
4. Maintain a calm tone: Always speak calmly to an Alzheimer’s patient, and avoid sounding stressed or angry. If you sound agitated, it is likely they will become agitated as well.
5. Speak slowly: Try speaking at half of your normal speed when talking to a memory care patient. Pause between sentences to allow them to process what you just said. Dementia patients need additional time to “catch up ” to what is being said.
6.Avoid long sentences or instructions: Senior caregivers should concentrate on speaking in brief, direct sentences which will help the patient to focus. Never include more than one thought or question in a single sentence. Give them time to answer a question before asking another. Keep in mind, you can ask questions which involve ” who, what, where and when”. Do not ask them to explain “why” something is. These answers involve complex thought and are likely to confuse and frustrate your loved one.
7. Don’t ask them to “remember”: Not being able to remember is the biggest frustration among those living with advancing dementia, and many times they cannot remember. Asking them to points out that they cannot, and can make them feel demeaned and insulted. At the very least, they will feel embarrassed.
8. Flip the narrative in a positive way: Refrain from negative reinforcement, and remember that you are speaking to an adult, not a child. Learning to say “let’s try this” instead of “that won’t work” takes some practice but goes a long way to fostering a sense of confidence and trust.
9. Resist arguing: The best way to deal with an irate or belligerent memory care patient is to validate their emotions, and redirecting them to think another thought. For instance, if they are angry because someone they love is no longer with them, say “I understand that makes you sad, you love them very much. Tell me something about them that you really enjoy”.
Senior caregivers are some of our most compassionate citizens. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, know that you are doing a wonderful thing. But if it becomes overwhelming and you are looking for an alternative, come take a tour of A Banyan Residence in Venice. We are here to help with your questions and concerns regarding placing your loved one in a memory care facility.