Jun 25, 2015

How to Connect with a Person Living with Dementia

When you two people have known each other for a long time their relationship looks something like.

How to understand, cope and communicate with a person living with dementia.

Each person is a circle and the intersection of those two circles contains their common experiences. From experience they gain knowledge of the other person; and, this in turn is how they relate to each other.

The larger the intersection the greater the understanding and the stronger the relationship.

When dementia strikes (most probably Alzheimer's) there is often a shift in the dynamic.

This shift occurs because one the two persons starts having problems with their memory and brain; and, this causes changes in the way they relate to people and the world.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

When the paradigm shifts the relationship of the two circles looks like this.

How to Connect with a Person Living with Dementia

It seems like the two individuals have grown apart. This separation of the mind(s) leads to problems with understanding, coping, and communication.

It is important for the caregiver to understand this shift in the paradigm. Something has changed. The change is taking place in the person living with dementia. This change is not intentional on the part of the person living with dementia. They are not doing this on purpose - they have no choice.

Meanness, recalcitrance and other new and different behaviors occur due to the changes in the ability to remember (short term memory); and, the ability to sort out what is going on around them. In other words, they become confused. Not only by their own ability to think "straight"; but also, due to their inability to assimilate new information and unfamiliar situations.

Caregivers often lament - this is not the person I knew. They are in fact the person you have known all or most of your life and the difference is simple - there brain is deteriorating. Their ability to use their brain effectively is deteriorating. This is the change.

Persons living with dementia cannot adapt easily. As a result, it is the "job" of the caregiver to adapt, adjust, and change in order to deal with this new set of life experiences.

If you have not read the following articles I suggest you do so. Read them slowly and carefully. Try to digest the information; and then, try to incorporate the necessary changes into your life and new living environment.

Your goal should be simple and straightforward. The goal

How to understand, cope and communicate with a person living with dementia.

In the end the two circles should reconnect and this is what it might look like in Alzheimer's World.

How to Connect with a Person Living with Dementia

1. Alzheimer's World -- Two Circles Trying to Intersect

Our communication and the way we related to each other changed - abruptly, over night. It was if our ability to communicate effectively had been robbed from us.

I knew and understood these changes were being caused by Alzheimer's disease. On the other hand, my mother couldn't see the change. She couldn't understand what was happening.

When my mother would say something mean, or act out crazy behavior, I experienced the same emotions I had my entire life. Anger, frustration, and agitation.

Why wouldn't I? I felt the same exact feelings and emotions that I had been experiencing for 50 years. I had 50 years of practice.

2. Alzheimer's Caregiver Lament -- This is Not the Person I Knew

It is not hard for me to understand how an Alzheimer's caregiver might come to this conclusion. Alzheimer's disease is difficult to understand, hard to accept, and is disconcerting.

The behavioral changes that come with Alzheimer's disease cause the caregiver to experience a range of negative emotions that come on with a power that is equivalent to a human tsunami.

Anger, sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and the inability to "cope" are common. Resultant depression is common.

Concluding or believing that the person you know, is not the person you know, is an easy way to make sense of something that is very difficult to understand.

3. Learning How to Communicate with Someone Living with Alzheimer's

I finally realized that I was fighting Alzheimer's and this was not working. I needed to change. Like it or not reality had changed. This understanding lead me to a new place that I now call Alzheimer's World.

4. Alzheimer's Communication Tip -- Touching Foreheads and Kindness

One of the biggest challenges that Alzheimer's Caregivers face is how to communicate effectively with someone living with Alzheimer's disease. This challenge is particularly difficult when a person living with Alzheimer's becomes nasty and mean.

5. The Role of Reassurance in Dementia Care

Reassurance, to Reassure: to make someone feel less afraid, upset, or doubtful. To restore to confidence.
To relieve someone of anxiety.

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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