Ways To Lower the Stress Level
People with dementia are often frightened and alone, even if they’re right there with you. That’s because they may not have the memory information to remind them they know you. And life itself has become difficult.
by Author: Frena-Gray Davidson
“I wonder sometimes if having dementia is like one of those UFO stories. There you are, minding your own business and living your life. Then one day, or so it might seem, you are transported away to another planet where no-one is familiar and the life you knew has gone.
That’s how I think of it. They are taken to Planet Dementia. No wonder they’re scared. And sometimes angry. And often lonely. So as a caregiver, I try to bridge that gap I imagine they feel.
The first thing I do every day is introduce myself, again. I’m not waiting to strain their memory or test them and watch them fail. It’s so easy to say,. “Hi Mary, I’m Frena,” or the implied familiarity of “It’s me — Frena.” That helps and it’s never wrong.
- If they do recognize me, they’ll say something like, “Of course I know you’re Frena, silly!”
- If they don’t, then I’ve saved them a little extra stress.
If I’m going to help them to bathe, I’ll do it something like this. “Oh Mary, let’s go get your shower done now, shall we? You’ll feel so great afterwards. It’ll shake the ache out of your muscles.”
There’s lots of ways to say it, but I never ask the direct question, “Would you like to have your shower now, Mary?” because that allows for the answer “No!”
Suggestion, persuasion, bribery, manipulation — all those toddler skills come in useful. If Mary signals that after all that persuasion she doesn’t want a damn shower, by maybe bashing me with the back scrubber, I’ll back off. I’ll apologize, “Oh I’m sorry, Mary, I didn’t mean to scare you,” and I’ll help her feel safe before I try it again. And maybe I have to leave it altogether that day, though usually not.
When you want compliance, say “Fred, why don’t we…? and “Mary, let’s go and…” and “Mildred, I bet you’d feel better if we…” People with dementia feel secure with suggestion, especially if you go too. They don’t like orders — do you?
You see, if someone feels unsafe, paying no attention to their wishes is a sure way to make them terrified. If we notice their feelings, respect them and respond to them, this person is much more likely to trust us.
Most of those challenging behaviors of dementia come out of fear and lack of trust. I’ve never been hit by a person with dementia. That’s because I know the following:
The Rules of Handling People with Dementia:
1. Don’t worry them;
2. Don’t hurry them;
3. Don’t hesitate to “Sorry!” them;
4. If they get mad, step back;
5. If they feel sad, step forward;
6. If you frighten them, apologize;
7. Never argue;
8. Never order them about.
When doing care tasks, say “Would it be okay for me to…?” and “Do you mind if I…” and “Oh you look so good in that. May I just fix the collar for you?” Every time you ask, you empower the person with dementia. You give respect. You build trust. Their fear levels reduce.
Caregiving is not a bunch of tasks. It is the building of a relationship. The person with dementia has a damaged memory. The heart, the spirit and the soul within are alive. Nurture them. Become a companion.
Books by Frena Gray Davidson Include: