The 10 most important things about dementia caregiving

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  1. Communicating with people living with dementia can be challenging. Understand that their world may be different from our world, and that’s okay. We want to EMBRACE THEIR REALITY rather than trying to convince them of things that are true in our reality. Just because their reality is a different shape, it doesn’t make it wrong.  
  2. Don’t get hung up on the word, “lying”: realize that if you are telling them the facts of their reality, you are doing the best thing for both of you.
  3. Here are 3 questions you want to use when talking to people with dementia:
    1. “Where do you think they are?” when someone asks you about loved one
    2. “Can you help me?” when getting them to do something with you
    3. “What do you think about this?” when introducing a baby doll or animal
  4. Get to know them on a personal level, and this will help you live in their reality. Ask, “What did you used to like to do?” instead of, “What do you like to do?”
  5. Offer them 2-3 choices instead of asking open-ended questions like, “What do you want to eat for breakfast?” or, “What did you do today?”
  6. TIMELINE CONFUSION is the concept that time isn’t linear in dementia. If the individual cannot identify their loved ones, it isn’t because they don’t know them or love them, it’s because these people don’t fit on their timeline.
  7. Never try to “convince” someone living with dementia of something. Don’t use “logic” to try to help them understand.
  8. No weddings, no funerals, no cemeteries
  9. Not everything is Alzheimer disease! The phrase “Altttttheimer’s and dementia” sounds ridiculous.
  10. Recognize that their timeline and reality may change, and that we can learn to be flexible and change with it. Dementia caregiving is an art form that takes practice and patience to learn.
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3 thoughts on “The 10 most important things about dementia caregiving”

  1. What if the person with dementia is cognizant enough and knows for certain their spouse and a child are dead and wants to go to the cemeteries ?

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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