When someone close to you has dementia and spends an increasing
amount of time in a confused state, it can be difficult to remember
the person they were before the disease began to take control.
However, it's important to remember that he or she is an adult, not
a child, and deserves to be treated as such.
Honoring your loved one's wishes, including helping him or her
maintain a similar lifestyle to the one they had before they got
sick, will bring him or her a lot of comfort and reassurance. Here
are some ways to help those with dementia patients maintain a sense
When you're actively caring for someone, including helping them
through the basic activities of daily life, it can be hard not to
take a parental tone. This can come across as condescending,
disrespectful, or make the person you are caring for feel like a
child. Watch your tone and word choices, and try to speak to your
loved one as an equal whenever possible. Avoid using words like the
- Diaper: Regardless of what form they take,
refer to undergarments as underwear. You don't need to call
attention to their protective or "special" qualities unless your
loved one has specific concerns about making it to the bathroom as
- Bib: Call this an apron, or actually use an
apron if your loved one needs something to protect his or her
clothes during mealtimes.
- Potty: Use the words your loved one commonly
used pre-dementia to refer to toileting. "Do you need to use the
bathroom?" is a perfectly adequate phrase for all stages of
Ask Leading Questions
Set your loved one up for conversational success by replacing
open-ended questions with ones that are easier to answer. For
example, says something like "Mom, tell Kathy how much you enjoyed
raising your 10 children," instead of "Mom, tell Kathy how many
children you have."
Use "Therapeutic Fibbing"
"Therapeutic fibbing" is a concept designed to relieve the guilt
that often comes from lying to a loved one, even when that lie may
very well be the kindest thing you can say to them in that
situation. Those with dementia often stuggle with logic, rational
thought, sequencing and emotional control. Therapeutic fibbing may
be appropriate when telling the truth would cause pain, anxiety or
confusion, or when the person with dementia is experiencing life in
a different "time zone."
For example, say your wife wants to drive to the grocery store,
but you do not believe that she is a safe driver due to her
dementia. Instead of telling her that she's no longer safe to
drive, you could tell her that the car is in the shop for repair,
tell her that you've misplaced your keys or tell her that you'll
drive her to the store, since you need to go out anyway.
Plan Successful Outings
When you care for someone with dementia, it's easy to become
isolated out of fear that social situations will be difficult and
stressful. This does not have to be the case! With some planning
and thought, an outing can be rewarding and a welcome change of
pace from the routine of the day.
Planning an Outing
When you have control of an outing, consider the following
- Distance: How far away is it? Is this a trip
that is tolerable or even enjoyable for everyone?
- Time of Day: When does the person you care for
tend to be in the best spirits? Is it early morning, lunch-time, or
after an afternoon nap? Plan extra time to get there.
- Setting: Does the person enjoy watching
others, children in particular, in a restaurant or park? Or does
the person you care for react negatively to ill-behaved children or
- Food Choice: Does the restaurant have foods
that are easy to eat, cut, etc.?
Preparing Your Loved One
Some people do well with advance notice of an event, while
others will only grow anxious and ask repeatedly when an event is
happening. Some will not remember the event, no matter how many
times you remind them. Use your best judgment about what your loved
one is able to handle.
Prepare others for the special needs of your loved one. This can
be done by calling ahead to the restaurant and speaking to the
manager, or by discreetly speaking with the host or hostess before
you are seated. You could also make a customized card and bring it
with you to the restaurant. Hand the card discreetly to the hostess
as you enter the restaurant and ask that they also share the
information with the server for your table. Information to include
on the card includes things like whether you will be ordering for
them, how you would like the server to speak to the person you care
for, and any special seating needs.
Relax & Enjoy
If you are nervous about things going well, that anxiety will be
projected onto the person with dementia. One of the many effects of
dementia is the loss of filters, making them much more affected by
the emotions of people around them. If you are able to remain calm
and anticipate an enjoyable event, you are more likely to be able