10 Old School Adages and How They Can Help You Improve Your Dementia Care and Alzheimer's Care Skills
Alzheimer's Reading Room
1. The customer is always right.
If you’ve ever worked in sales (of any sort) you have heard that phrase. It’s annoying, but it is true. If you want to make a sale and you want the buyer to like you, they have to be right. This is the same concept in dementia care: the person with dementia is always right.
2. When the customer is wrong, refer to rule number one.
People with dementia often say things that aren’t true. In their world, though, they are 100% correct. It is our job to get in their world.
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3. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Just because your loved one with dementia is wrong, arguing with her about it isn’t going to make anything better.
4. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
I don’t mean this in the way you probably think I do. I mean that people who “don’t get it” will always seek to give your their advice on the way you are caring for your loved one with dementia. Your cousin with no dementia care experience may come in from out of town and have a lot of “advice” for you on how to care for you mother. Do your best to shrug, shake your head, and let it go. They don’t understand what it is like to care for someone with dementia—and they never will.
5. Many hands make light work.
You cannot do this alone. Don’t be afraid to look into a home care agency, an adult day center, or an assisted living community for your loved one’s care.
6. Let them eat cake.
Seriously, let them eat whatever they want. I once had a resident in one of my care communities who stopped eating. I found out from her daughter that she had always loved breakfast foods, so I asked the kitchen to start sending us only breakfast-related items for all three meals. Suddenly, she was eating again.
7. Better late than never.
The benefit of dementia is that you can make a caregiving mistake (such as telling your loved one that their friend has passed away) and you can learn from it without ruining your loved one’s entire week, because, hopefully, they will forget you told them. Learning from your caregiving mistakes and correcting them, even when late, is better than never correcting them.
8. If you can’t bite, you better not show your teeth.
Don’t waste your time trying to discipline anyone with dementia. “Well, if you keep asking me when dinner is, you’re not going to get any!” is not an effective way to work with someone who has dementia. People with dementia aren’t children.
9. Focus on what's right in your world instead of what's wrong.
I love working in dementia care. Although it is trying, and painful, dementia care can be, at times, beautiful and unique. I think that people with dementia have the ability to see the world in way that other people cannot.
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10. There’s no place like home.
People with dementia almost always want to “go home.”
What a lot of caregivers have trouble understanding, though, is that “home” is usually not the place they live now or the place they just came from. Usually, “home” is the place that the person with dementia grew up. And, home is not just a place: home is a feeling of comfort, of love, and a place where friends and family gather. Take solace in the fact that taking your loved one with dementia outside the home is not a bad thing, because that person can never truly return to the “home” that they are looking for.
Rachael Wonderlin is the author of Dementia By Day and “When Someone You Know is Living in a Dementia Care Community,” due out this November with Johns Hopkins University Press.
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"Bob DeMarco knows what he's talking about. Not only was he the primary caregiver for his mother with Alzheimer's, but he put in the time and dedication it took to learn more about dementia. It's clear that this lit a fire in him, and it's a fire that you can't find elsewhere on the Internet.
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- Rachael Wonderlin, author of "When Someone You Know is Living in a Dementia Care Community" and founder of the blog, Dementia By Day.