Responding to repetition and behaviors in dementia care is not easy. It can be a difficult and demanding job caring for a loved one living with dementia. Not just with the physical demand but also the mental strain. We’ve never experienced what they are going through and can’t comprehend why they don’t understand or comprehend what we’re saying.
Have you found yourself saying (or almost saying) anything like this:
- “How do you not remember that? I just told you.”
- “Not again! I already told you!”
- “I’ve told you a hundred times already!”
Calming Presence and Patience are the Key
You’ve likely experienced that those responses don’t get you anywhere and in fact cause more of a problem as it leads to behavioral responses or anger from your loved one as well as building up your own emotional responses. It takes practice but try calming yourself down and in a friendly voice as well as a face that matches, answer the question the way you did the very first time.
Have Grace and Understanding
Physical changes in the brain that dementia often cause severe memory loss and they don’t remember that you just told them the answer. These changes also make it difficult for a person to stop a repetitive motion like tapping on a table. Anxiety and tension can translate themselves into repetitive motions or questions which others may experience as annoying.
Behaviors are Needs Expressed
Often people have misconceptions about behaviors in individuals living with dementia and consider them “wrong” or “inappropriate.” In fact, these “behaviors” that they are exhibiting are just needs being expressed. Dementia not only affects our memory, but it also impacts our speech, comprehension, motor skills, reasoning, and other necessary skills that we utilize to communicate normally. Ask yourself what they may be trying to communicate to you by exhibiting the behavior and never ridicule or denounce the need being expressed.
They are Doing the Best They Can
Patience and compassion are necessary in individuals that are caring for individuals living with dementia. Their brain is literally deteriorating. It’s up to those of us with healthy brains, responsible reasoning, and better control, to take a deep breath and focus on helping the person out with whatever need is making itself known, however it may be expressed.
Understanding Needs Being Expressed
- If a person with dementia is in pain, they might rock, or pace to express their discomfort. We need to be extra alert to pain and comfort related needs and do what we can to alleviate them. Sometimes, giving a repetitive task like winding yarn or folding towels can be a comforting distraction for the person.
- Boredom is a common need expressed in individuals living with dementia. They do still crave a sense of purpose and meaning. If they ask you, “What do I do now?” they are actually asking you to involve them in something that will give them a sense of pleasure or help them feel useful. We all need to feel purposeful in life. This does not stop when we get older or when we develop dementia. Ask for help with something around the house or a rather simple task. An inability to take initiative is usually part of the dementia progression. Do not assume that your loved one is beyond having interest in things that have been important to them. The person may not know to how to begin a task that used to be important. In that case, it falls to us to remind the person of who they are, what they’ve done and get creative turning past interests into activities they are now able to participate in.
- You may sense sadness or insecurity in your loved one living with dementia. Listen for the emotion behind a person’s question or behavioral expression, and respond to that, i.e., “You seem worried. I’m right here if you need anything.” “We will be together all day.” Putting on soothing music that the person likes and using gentle touch may provide further reassurance.
Above all things, taking care of yourself is important. You cannot be the best caregiver if you don’t take care of your own health first. Know that there is support and guidance assistance with any member of our team to help you in your journey.