By Erin Denstaedt, MS, Certified Senior Advisor and Concierge Care Advisors
One of the most terrible things about dementia is that in the early stages seniors are often aware that their brain is changing. They recognize the signs of memory loss, confusion and their inability to handle or take care of their daily activities. For someone with dementia this, is a frightening time in their lives. Helping a loved one during this time is crucial, and talking with them could be one of the most important things you can do to help them as they face a new reality. It isn’t really an open-ended discussion because the goal is clear, they will need some help in the future. Here are some of the best things we can do for our loved one with dementia.
Try to understand how they may be feeling– Try to put yourself in their shoes. Aging in general is already difficult, but when a senior’s mental capacity is diminishing, it is especially difficult. Listening and showing compassion to someone who has a memory condition can go a long way. Sometimes just lending an ear and offering to help find some assistance is enough to make a senior feel at ease – at least for the moment.
Ask questions– Asking questions about how you can help care for a senior that needs extra support can ease the burden. Use non-threatening, open ended questions about what type of assistance is needed, for example, “Mom, wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to do your laundry anymore or make your own meals any longer?” The answers may give you an opening to discuss what care-giving assistance can do to make their life a bit easier.
Be patient– Focusing on a conversation can be difficult in the early stages of dementia. As their attention wanders, being patient and listening attentively is important. Listening is the most important part of any conversation with a senior.
Give choices– Everyone loves having choices and feeling like they have a say in what is going on. It is important for a senior who has dementia to feel like they are part of the process and that they still have some control over the decisions that are being made for them.
Take things slow– Senior that have dementia are already feeling overwhelmed. Taking small steps will let your loved one have an opportunity to become accustomed to receiving assistance; no one likes to feel like an imposition.
These things are difficult, however if you approach dementia care discussions with understanding and compassion it can make navigating this new territory a bit easier for you and your senior.