Dementia is not only a disease that affects the memory; it often leads people with dementia to say outrageous things as well. It can be difficult to know how to respond when dementia speaks. That’s why we’ve put together our “how to respond when dementia speaks” tips:
1) The key is to not let embarrassment lead your reactions. A person who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease will say embarrassing things, but you need to stay calm and focus on diffusing the situation. Try to remember that your loved one cannot help what they are saying or doing. Some forms of dementia lower inhibitions and reduce the understanding of right vs. wrong. It’s also normal for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to all of a sudden become afraid because they realize they are losing control and their independence. Cognitive skills like logic, reasoning, problem-solving and decision-making also go out the window. Keep all of this in mind and choose your reactions accordingly.
2) Don’t take it personally. The key to knowing how to respond when dementia speaks is to stay in control of the situation and remain calm. That is what reduces stress for both you and your loved one, allowing you to quickly move on. Although things they say may seem manipulative, in most cases, people with dementia don’t even have the mental capacity to manipulate. Try to remember that so that you don’t take what they say personally.
3) Don’t argue with a person who has dementia. People with dementia have lost the ability to reason. Even if they say something that is not true, there is no point in arguing with them because you won’t get anywhere. And remember that it is likely that the person with dementia won’t even remember the conversation in a few minutes time, so if you need to, step away to release your frustration so you can come back and start fresh.
4) When interacting with a loved one who has dementia, be reassuring instead of confrontational. Your loved one may say illogical and completely off the wall things, but it doesn’t matter. Be patient, listen to them and reassure them that you are there for them.
5) Try to determine what might be triggering their behavior. Sometimes a person with dementia says or does inappropriate things because they are uncomfortable and don’t know how to express it. They may be feeling cold, hungry, lost or alone, for example. Knowing how to respond when dementia speaks can be like diagnosing what is wrong with a baby. Stay calm and take each possibility into account.
6) Understand that people with dementia often say strange things because they see what they know, not what is really there. For example, a man who loves fishing might look at a man walking a dog and thinking the man is fishing, he might yell out, “Catch anything?” While moments like this can be confusing and embarrassing, the best way to handle them is to simply strike up a conversion with him or her about the topic they referred to, which in this example would be fishing.
7) Remember that people with dementia often yell out in anger at things they think they are seeing. They might insult another person with racial slurs or disrespectful comments. Just remember that with dementia comes a loss of inhibitions, and therefore, a loss of the filtering capabilities people under normal circumstances have. Simply redirect the conversation with a simple explanation to what they are seeing and move on.
8) Know that people with dementia are often inappropriate. If the person makes sexual comments, for example, tell him or her that is inappropriate and apologize to the victim of the comment, explaining that your loved on has dementia. Then, move your loved one away from the other person if possible.
Knowing how to respond when dementia speaks can be a huge challenge, but with these tips, we hope it is easier for you, even if in the slightest way.
Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net, Witthaya Phonsawat