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Dealing with Dementia

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be challenging for patients and caregivers alike. Learn the top strategies for dealing with dementia that can benefit both you and your loved one.

Ask Yes-or-No Questions

Instead of asking, “What would you like for lunch today?”, simplify the question into one that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” A question such as, “Would you like chicken and rice for lunch?” is much easier for someone with dementia to answer without becoming anxious.

Answer Questions Simply

Lengthy explanations are not effective when speaking with dementia patients. If they are confused about the time or place, try answering their questions once. If they keep repeating themselves or insisting on something that can’t happen—such as leaving a long-term care facility and returning home—a simple excuse can make the explanation easier. “We can’t leave until later because the traffic is bad” or “rain is in the forecast” or “it’s too late to leave tonight.” You might have to repeat your explanations day after day, but they can help prevent the situation from escalating.

Respond Calmly to Aggression

It’s possible for aggressive or even violent behaviors to emerge in a loved one struggling with dementia. Seemingly harmless activities such as bathing or getting dressed can trigger a response. Remember, your loved one isn’t doing this on purpose. It’s most likely a response to feeling angry, sad, confused, fearful, or helpless.

To bring the tension down quickly, speak in a calm, reassuring manner and shift the focus to something else. The best thing might be to walk away and give your loved one space. Whatever you do, don’t forcibly restrain the person unless you have no other choice.

Simplify the Home Environment

Clutter is overwhelming to anyone, but especially for dementia patients who easily experience sensory overload. If possible, box up knick-knacks and remove other clutter to make the living environment calm and relaxing. Remove patterned wallpaper and paint the walls a subtle color. Play soothing ambient music when you’re in the mood. Fill the air with pleasant, mild fragrances using fresh flowers, scented soaps, and potpourri.

Offer Financial Help Gently

Don’t make your loved one feel incompetent by bluntly pointing out their financial errors. Instead, gently mention the problems you see—such as overdraft fees on the bank account, unpaid bills, or difficulty calculating a tip at a restaurant—and offer to help.

Use the Power of Touch

Hold your loved one’s hand when you’re trying to get their attention. This can help them feel calmer and safer about their mental struggles. It can even help them focus on formulating an answer when you ask a question. Don’t underestimate the loving nature of stroking your loved one’s face or brushing their hair.

Exercise Together

Research shows that living a sedentary lifestyle increases the chance of dementia as you get older. On the other hand, regular physical activity stimulates blood flow and slows down brain aging. As a result, exercising could be beneficial for both you and your loved one’s mental health. Suggestions include going on walks, gardening, and doing water aerobics.

Laugh Together

As they say, laughter is the best medicine. There is profound truth to this, as a recent study shows that telling and laughing at jokes can relieve stress as effectively as medication does.

If you’re looking for information about helping your loved one qualify for and maximize Medicaid benefits, Senior Planning Services can help. Contact us today to learn more. We have offices in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and we offer assistance across the U.S.