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Some helpful basic tips for dealing with dementia and the difficult behaviours of your loved ones

How to manage repeated questions and confusion

Do: When your ageing loved one is confused about where they are or what’s happening, try some of these tips:

  • Communicate with simple explanations
  • Use photos and other tangible items to help explain situations
  • Remain calm and supportive, and don’t take their confusion personally
  • Use tools such as alarms, calendars, and to-do lists to help them remember tasks

Don’t: Lengthy explanations don’t work. You have to figure out what’s going to make the person feel the safest, even if that ends up being a therapeutic lie. You can’t reason with someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia. It just can’t be done. A lot of times, we’re triggering the response we’re getting because of the questions we’re asking.

How to help with poor judgment

Do: A caregiver can often minimise frustration and embarrassment for dementia patients by:

  • Listening and offering subtle help
  • Working together to fix a problem
  • Simplifying a task or routine by breaking it down into smaller steps

Don’t: Blatantly questioning the person’s ability to take care of the situation at hand or arguing with them isn’t helpful.

  • You may risk alienating them. Any response that can be interpreted as accusatory or doubting the person’s ability to handle their own affairs only serves to anger and put them on the defensive

How to deal with attempts at manipulation

Your loved one may have lost the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehoods, and they may no longer have a sense of morality around lying. These symptoms can be especially difficult for a caregiver to handle as it may feel like a complete change in personality.

Do: Separate the behaviour from the person, and do not hold it against them.

  • Set limits when possible, communicate expectations clearly, and work together to find a resolution when you’re able to
  • Remain aware of your own personal responses. Do you feel angry, hurt, or frustrated? If so, do you act on these emotions around your aging family member? Acting on these emotions can bring more distress to an already stressful situation

Don’t:

  • Bring up events to prove or disprove statements
  • Use accusatory language such as “you’re lying” or “you’re being manipulative”
  • Engage in heated arguments
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