If you are caring for someone who is living with dementia, and the symptoms and their actions are becoming more intense or escalating, you may feel as though life with the person you love has become a constant battle. Are your requests turning into demands as the person refuses to respond to normal suggestions?
If the person you car for is resisting everyday health routines or tasks, ignoring your requests or refusing to get dressed, bathed, clean their teeth or eat, and the outcomes are causing disagreements … take a step back ~ have a cup of tea and try new ways to convince the person to carry out or allow you to help them be involved with everyday living:
The person who is living with dementia is likely to be confused, disorientated, bewildered and even fearful. The person may be unable to express what is wrong. Frustration sets in, agitation builds and the only way of expressing something or catching your attention may be through negative actions, shouting or banging. Imagine being in this position; how frustrating it would feel. People with dementia often show signs of depression, as if they have given up trying to express themselves, or are too confused to express their needs or wants.
Let’s take a few moments to consider what it might feel like to be living the life of someone who is experiencing dementia – a better understanding may help us to help our loved ones. Have you ever tried on someone else’s spectacles or looked about a room through a pair reading glasses and felt as though you were in some sort of fuzzy bubble or felt a little bit dizzy? If we wore these ill-suited lenses everyday, we might begin to feel somewhat disorientated. Quite soon, we may feel unable to concentrate fully. Eventually we could develop a sense of confusion. Wearing the lenses permanently might cause us to feel irritated or become agitated. I’m not suggesting anyone tries this as an experiment – just the thought of this confusion may help us to understand how it might feel to be experiencing confusion on a twenty-four hour, seven days-a week basis.
We may remember from childhood or bringing up our own young children, that we were often taught how to play and enjoy. We set up situations for our children to learn. We would show them that an object, environment or situation was safe. I am not suggesting that we treat people living with dementia like children – far from it – I am using this practice to demonstrate how we might coax a person with dementia to carry out a task that they have been refusing due to confusion or a developed sense of fear.
There’s a well used saying for writers ‘Show. Don’t tell.’ I often use this term literally and always find it useful when talking to elderly people. People with dementia may not understand what you are saying – showing an actual object, item of clothing, tin of rice pudding, a picture or photograph helps a person to understand what you want or need them to do.
Now let’s think again about asking our relative; spouse, parent, friend to get dressed, take a shower, eat something …
Create a calm environment
Try to be patient even if you’re in a rush – rushing may compound feelings and develop a sense of anxiety
Use short sentences
Show or point to the article you are talking about
Engage in plenty of eye contact to gauge the person’s response
If a person looks confused – it may indicate they have forgotten a daily living skill
Don’t hurry the person – this may increase agitation
Instead of asking the person to do something – create suggestions
Remember that people with dementia still have pride and may resist help at first
If a person is resisting change of clothes – find some clothing magazines to prompt ideas for changing clothes.
Have a wardrobe tidy-out – there may simply be too many clothes to choose from
Sorting clothes can be an activity to do together – remove clothes that don’t fit or need repair or laundering
Suggest a charity shop clothes donation
Allow the person to choose their clothes or colours
Open the wardrobe and offer suitable clothing for the season or climate
Offer the clothes for dressing one at a time
Talk about the colour / comfort / fabric / favourites when dressing
‘Is this your favourite colour Dad?’
‘Do you remember wearing this at Emily’s Christening?’
Don’t do tasks for the person, show or remind them how to fasten buttons, zips etc.
Caring is a kind and generous act but can sometimes feel like a chore and often over-face us. When helping the person you are caring for to get dressed, bathe or make choices, try to see it as an occasion rather than a daily task and enjoy the time together.
You could use clear signage to help orientation and recognition – try out the special offer laminate picture label cards in the shop – or email firstname.lastname@example.org for personalised, residential use or larger signage.
Coming Soon … Safety tips … Bathing … Eating … Things to do together