Caregiving 101 - 10 ways to care for individuals with dementia
Dementia is a brain disorder that makes it hard for people to remember, think, communicate, and take care of themselves. In addition, they may experience mood swings and changes in their personality and behavior. As a result, people caring for adults with dementia has challenges. This is true even for caregivers who have completed training as nursing assistants, home health aides, personal care aides, or other types of caregivers.
If you're working in a caregiver job and caring for a client who has early dementia, here are ten practical ways for you to consider, discuss with your nursing supervisor, and figure out if they can make things easier for you and your client.
Set a positive mood
Attitude and body language communicate more effectively than words do. Because of this, make sure that you start right by setting a positive mood. Speak in a pleasant and respectful tone, use facial expressions, physical touch, and a friendly voice to convey feelings of affection to your loved one.
Get your clients' attention
Turn off the television, close the curtains, and shut the door. Do whatever it takes to make sure that you have their full attention. Call your client by name, identify yourself and the relationship. Use nonverbal cues and touch to maintain focus and if they sit down, maintain eye contact by going down to their level.
State your message clearly
Don't mix jargon and complicated words when communicating. Use simple, easy-to-understand sentences and speak slowly in a supportive tone. If they don't understand you the first time, repeat the message. If they still don't understand you, wait for a few minutes and rephrase the sentence. Also, remember to use real names over pronouns or abbreviations to prevent any further confusion.
Ask simple questions
Questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no" are advisable. Avoid asking open-ended questions or ones that require deep thinking. If there are choices, show it to them physically, such as pointing at colors. Additionally, don’t flood your loved one with too many questions at once—ask one item at a time.
Listen with your heart
Be patient if your client doesn't reply immediately. If they struggle to answer, suggest some words. Look at their body language and respond accordingly. What's most important here is that you look for the meanings and feelings behind the words they utter.
Break down activities into different steps
Doing this allows you to turn complicated tasks into much more manageable ones. Encourage your significant other with things they can do, and remind them of how to do it. Don't be afraid to assist them with tasks that they can no longer complete by themselves. Remember, use visual cues as a guide.
Distract your client from tough situations
If your client becomes angry or scared, try to change the subject or the environment. Connect to them emotionally before making a suggestion. For example, say, "I know you're feeling sad, I'm sorry. Let's go get something to eat."
Respond with love
People with dementia are often confused, anxious and unsure. They might recall situations that have never occurred. If your client does that, don't accuse them of any wrongdoing. Instead, show your support and respond by giving reassurance and comfort.
Remember the past
Remembering good times is a soothing activity for many. Your client may not be able to recall what happened an hour ago, but they won't forget what happened in the past. Ask them what they received for their 20th birthday, not what they ate for lunch.
Maintain a sense of humor
Use humor whenever you can, but not at your client’s expense. People with early dementia may retain their social skills, and your client may enjoy laughing. In some cases, comedians are being hired by the hour to help people living with dementia.
No one is born with the knowledge on how to talk to a person who has dementia, but you learned many lessons during your training. We hope that the tips given above help to reinforce what you’ve already learned, but your primary guide should remain your client’s care plan and the recommendations of your supervisor.
Continuing to care and showing support for your client is how you can help to make their lives a joy to live. These ideas, however, are not appropriate for clients to have late-stage dementia.
If you’re looking for CNA training, training to become another type of caregiver, or just want to find the right CNA or caregiver job for you, get in touch with us today to see how we can help!
Dr. Charlene Brown
Dr. Charlene Brown is the Founder of Caregiver Jobs Now where we connect CNA and Caregivers to meaningful jobs. She is a recognized expert in public health who is Board-certified in Preventive Medicine, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, and licensed to practice medicine in the State of Maryland.
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