If your loved one has dementia, he may not be acting like himself anymore. He may become increasingly confused and need more care as his disease progresses. It’s important to remember, though, that your loved one is an adult, not a child, and to treat him as such. Our elderly loved ones deserve respectful treatment that dignifies them as an adult, despite their deterioration. You can show respect and honor for your elder loved ones by honoring their wishes and trying to maintain a similar lifestyle to what they had prior to dementia. This will bring them a measure of comfort and reassurance. Here are some tips to caring for your loved ones with dementia while maintaining their dignity:
- Do not parent them. When you are helping someone with the basic activities of life (such as using the restroom or getting dressed), you may tend toward a parental tone with them. Parenting your elderly loved one can come across as disrespectful and condescending. It can make them feel like a child. Avoid using childlike words such as potty, diaper, or bib. Instead try to use more respectful terms such as bathroom, underwear, or apron. Be mindful of your tone and word choices. Try to speak to your loved one as an equal as much as possible.
- Be open-ended. Help your loved one in conversation by focusing on open-ended discussion rather than specific details. For example, rather than asking how many children he has, ask how he felt raising his children or his favorite memories of them growing up. It may be difficult for your loved one to recall specific details.
- Being right is not most important. Sometimes your loved one may be in a different time or incorrectly recalling certain events. Rather than correcting your loved one, listen to him and encourage more discussion. Those dealing with dementia often struggle with sequencing and logical thought. It can be appropriate to fib to your loved one when telling the truth would cause pain, anxiety, or confusion. For example, if your loved one wants to drive to the store but is no longer a safe driver, you could tell him that the car is in the repair shop or that you will drive because you need to go out anyway. This can be more loving than telling him that he is no longer a safe driver due to his dementia, which may cause pain and confusion.
- Get out of the house. It can be difficult to go out of the house with your loved one if social situations make him anxious or stressed. Rather than isolating your loved one at home, take the time to plan a successful outing. This can be rewarding and offer a change of pace for the day. Choose a time of day when your loved one is most active and in the best mood. Allow for ample time to get ready and arrive to where you are going. Think about the types of things your loved one enjoys and incorporate that into the outing. Try to be relaxed and calm because this will help your loved one to feel the same.
Above all, it is important to remember that your elderly one is still the same person you have known and loved. The dementia may cause him to act differently and require extra care, but he still deserves to be treated respectfully and as an adult. These tips can help you to accomplish that as you continue to care for your loved ones with dementia.