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3 Tips To Make Dementia Care Less Frustrating

Written by Judy Cornish
April 13, 2022
3 Tips To Make Dementia Care Less Frustrating
The DAWN Method® is a kind, strength-based, person-centered approach to dementia care that trains families and caregivers to recognize the skills dementia does not take away.

When I tell people that I provide dementia care, the most common response is an exclamation of sympathy and a comment about how patient I must be. However, I know dementia caregiver stress is legitimate for many reasons, and I can understand their reactions.

The secret to a more enjoyable experience in caring for someone with dementia lies in our expectations. These tips are my expectations when I’m with someone who has dementia.

Tip 1- Reminders and memory-jogging will not work with dementia

With my dementia clients, I do not expect memory testing to work.

For example, when raising my children, I spent much time explaining what they needed to do and then reminding them of what they had forgotten. When they had a test at school, I helped with quizzing them on spelling words, times tables, and historical facts. Repetition and reminders were effective because my children could retrace their thought processes and recall information.

People experiencing dementia are losing memories and the ability to remember. "Quizzing them" or "jogging their memory" will not help them remember. THose types of queues will make them feel embarrassed, inadequate, and lost. Instead of trying to jog their memory, I happily repeat whatever information they need whenever they need it. My expectations are aligned with their abilities.

Tip 2- A person with dementia will read my feelings and moods

I expect people who are experiencing dementia to be operating without rational thought, yet their intuitive thought systems to be operating normally. This means they will be experiencing none of the distractions our rational thought systems provide and have all the more time to read my feelings and moods.

Whenever I am with someone experiencing dementia, I assume the role of mood creator. I make sure that I am not radiating sadness, concern, or amazement at their impairments.

I am looking for something beautiful, funny, or heartwarming to enjoy for both of us. There is always something from one of those categories available in the present. If not, we go for a walk or drive to find it. Managing my mood is my responsibility.

Tip 3- Rational thought and dementia

I think of dementia and rational thought in terms of functions.

I don’t expect someone with dementia or Alzheimer's to be able to do some things, so I don’t become frustrated when they can’t. Instead, I understand they don’t have those skills and use my own skills as necessary.

The top three functions I do not expect my clients to be able to perform are:

  • Seeing cause and effect
  • Prioritizing ideas or actions
  • An ability to follow the steps of a task or sequence

We are task teammates

When a task needs to be done, we do it together as teammates. This is the secret to lowering frustration and stress for both partners in the dementia care experience.

So, although it seems evident to me that icy sidewalks mean dangerous walking, I don’t expect it to be apparent to my clients. And when we need to get ready to go somewhere on time, I focus our attention on the next thing that needs to be done, not on the destination or looming deadline.

When our expectations match our companions’ capabilities, there is less dementia caregiver stress and less stress for the person experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

CircleOf's article about dementia care costs and caregiver support is a good next read. Alzheimer's is one of the most expensive diseases for families to plan for and finance. Costs to age-at-home include meal modifications, monitoring systems, insurance costs, skilled aid support, respite, and adding safety or monitoring features around the home.

A dementia roadmap for families

From her website, when you suspect that your loved one is experiencing dementia, it can be overwhelming. But, though you may grieve the loss of how things were before, not all is lost. Caring for someone with dementia at home is possible.

The DAWN Method® will show you how. "Guide to Caring for Someone with Dementia at Home" is on her website, and we HIGHLY recommend this site for families who need support or if you have questions.

How to prepare for dementia

First, if you are going thru this, sign up for the DAWN newsletter and get the free video series “Preparing for Dementia.”

In her first video, Judy Cornish explains what dementia is and the signs of dementia and give suggestions on how and where to look for assistance.

In the second video, she covers the skills kept and lost to dementia and the emotional needs created by dementia.

In the third video, Judy describes what to expect as you journey through the six stages of dementia from a functional perspective.

Strength-based, person-centered approach

Check out Judy's list of how to understand people experiencing dementia/Alzheimer’s and some identifiable stages of dementia, regardless of the type of dementia they are experiencing.

She writes more about it here.

Judy's video - dementia or normal aging?

Watch her youtube video here.

Build Your Dementia Support Team Today

Our simple app is the place to create a calendar and checklist of everyday activities. You can have the team confirm that daily living tasks have been done. Track medications and that things that are necessary to take care of their physical and emotional well-being, but also manage a busy life simultaneously.

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Download the app and give it a try. It's free!

If you’re a family caregiver, CircleOf is the app for you. You will organize and collaborate with family and friends, have secure, regular communication so everyone is on the same page. Download and build your circle of care today.

About the author: Judy Cornish is a former eldercare lawyer and the former owner of Palouse Dementia Care, a dementia care agency that provides in-home dementia care to seniors in northern Idaho. She is the author of Dementia With Dignity and The Dementia Handbook as well as the creator of the DAWN Method of dementia care. Judy believes that with a little training, families can provide excellent dementia care at home with less stress and more companionship.

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