I work with many clients whose spouses suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia, and I have several friends and colleagues who do an excellent job taking care of individuals with these issues. I have witnessed family members who bring their parents into my office talk to their parent who is suffering from this condition, and I can immediately tell that they have not received counseling about how to handle someone with this condition. Here are some tips for dealing with an Alzheimer's patient:
- Never argue with the person, just agree. My grandmother suffered from dementia prior to her death. She would tell me, as I was sitting there with her in her bedroom, about the little guy who hides under her bed and would make her laugh. If I tried to tell her there was no one under the bed, this would upset her. Instead, it was easier just to go along with what she was saying and then we both had a good laugh. Everyone was happy.
- Never shame, instead distract – kind of same as Number 1 – telling the person that they have done something wrong or making them feel bad is not going to help matters. Try to be positive – instead of saying, “Don’t do that” try saying “Let’s try this.”
- Do not say to an Alzheimer’s patient, “remember when...?” No, they do not remember. Instead, reminisce with them about the old days and tell them stories (that might help trigger old memories).
- Never condescend. Instead, encourage them. Treat them with respect and do not talk about them as if they are not there.
- Try to keep things simple – give one step directions or ask one question at a time. Call people and things by names instead of “she” or “they” or “it”.
- Try to rephrase what you are saying instead of repeating. If the person has a hard time understanding what you are saying, try to say it in a different way.
- Most of all, try to have patience. Encourage him or her to express themselves, even if they are having a hard time. Be careful not to interrupt and try not to criticize, correct or argue with him or her.
Being a caregiver to someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia is not easy. Taking care of yourself and trying to get counseling to help you learn about how to help your loved one is also very important. If you need information about the programs in your local community, the Alzheimer’s Association can help you find a support group near you – click on - http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-support-groups.asp.
To schedule a complimentary phone consultation with Attorney Laurie Ohall, please contact her office at 813.438.8503.