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Dementia Challenge:Introducing Change

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Dementia Challenge: How to avoid negative behaviors when introducing change  

Caring for someone with dementia is a challenging journey for all involved. Every day brings new challenges, changes in behaviors and abilities. Life can feel overwhelming. Each day may bring unexpected change. And increase concern on how to handle the new challenges. Caregivers find the day-to-day challenges an emotional rollercoaster of… anger, fear, grief and fatigue.

The most important thing a family caregiver to learn is this is a task that cannot be done alone.

Family caregivers need to take time to learn as much as they can about:

The type of dementia

The part of the brain that is affected

And what the anticipated behaviors that may arise.

This is so important. The more information you have the better prepared you for the future care needs of your loved one.

A family caregiver needs support to handle the difficult challenges ahead. That support can be found in support groups, online and in the community.

Nothing in life prepares a family caregiver on how to communicate with their loved ones… as they mentally and physically decline.  The key to successful communication with person with dementia is to:

  • Offer consistency
  • Keep things simple
  • Provide a structured environment.

Providing structure does not mean that life must be rigid and inflexible. It does mean that daily routines should be followed and flow easily. Consistency is important because repetition can help avoid frustration. It can also avoid conflicts during care and everyday routines.

Simplicity in communication is something that may require forethought in the beginning. We take our day-to-day conversations for granted. The hardest thing to realize… at times is the person we are caring for is not intentionally trying to irritate or anger. The loss of mental deterioration may result in new and unexpected behaviors. They have lost the ability to do an old and familiar task.

Learning to be aware of how you communicate … to your family member with dementia.. Can make caregiving less stressful. As well as provide a more satisfying relationship with your loved one.

Improving communication skills can prepare a family caregiver to… assist their loved one with any changes in levels of care or in environment as they decline.

The most important thing to realize is …they may not be able to understand your words. But they do pick up on your body language and your mood. It is important to be aware of your mood, your facial expressions and the tone of your voice.

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When communicating, stay positive and speak in a pleasant manner. It is important to limit the distractions. Use nonverbal cues, such as touching, hugging or holding their hand to get their attention.

Speak slowly and deliver your message in short sentences. It is important to be observing to see if they do not understand what you are saying. Try using the same statement again. It is important to give your loved one a chance to process what you are saying.

It is good to question so that there are just “yes” and “no” answers. Do not offer a variety of choices to a person with dementia; it is too confusing for them.

Communications takes patience. Waiting for a response can be frustrating. Observe the nonverbal cues, body language and facial expressions. Pay attention to the meaning and the feelings that are being expressed when there is a response. You may find yourself giving verbal cues to words or even visual prompts. This is OK as long as your loved one is not getting upset or distracted.

If your loved one becomes upset, it is always possible to redirect the conversation. Asking questions about things that have happened in the long term past is a good distraction. Long-term memory is still intact and this information will be retained.

Introducing change is never easy to an individual with dementia. It causes confusion and will result in unwanted and negative behaviors. You cannot change those behaviors. You can prepare yourself for this and put a plan in place. It is important to be flexible and open to changing your strategies.