As people get older, they rely more on family, caregivers, friends and neighbors to get them through their day. When that person steps up to provide that extra help, there is usually a lot of banter back and forth when the helper is not at their best.
People living with dementia can be forgetful or repeat themselves more than once, and this can try the patience of the person helping the senior out. The senior receiving the in-home care may feel angry or guilty about their situation and lash out on their person caring for them. In these situations, it is hard not to react negatively towards the elderly person.
In order to keep conversations pleasant, it is important to phrase things in such a way that will not upset the senior.
If a senior was supposed to get something done, do not ask them, “Why haven’t you done that already?” Instead, the caregiver could say, “I am sure it will be more fun doing it together and then you won’t have to worry about it.” Whether it is putting clothes away, unloading the dishwasher, paying a bill or changing a lightbulb, people do not like to feel stupid or forgetful. Maybe the task makes them feel unsafe, or parts of their body might hurt while performing some of those tasks. Sometimes a senior needs hands-on assistance while completing these activities. It is better to assist the elderly person with these tasks than to nag them to do it on their own.
If a senior starts to repeat something over and over again, do not tell them, “Everybody knows that already!” The best response in this situation is, “Sometimes I forget that too.” It does not matter how old a person is, because at times we are all forgetful. It is nice for a senior to know that even their caregivers, younger family members and friends forget things from time to time.
When a senior asks a question multiple times, do not say, “I told you more than 100 times already!” Reacting this way will make the elderly person feel very badly, so another way to respond in that situation may be to say, “How about we create some reminders about it.” Making notes and posting them around where seniors will see can be very helpful. Using sticky notes can help remind seniors of their scheduled appointments, or the notes could help remind seniors of special instructions regarding their medications. Technology can be used to remind seniors of these tasks as well.
Seniors can find themselves a little confused, and they might start talking about things that are irrelevant. Do not tell them, “You do not need that anymore!” Instead you can say, “May I please borrow that? It makes me think of you.” The caregiver should always be polite to the elderly person. Sometimes it is good to de-clutter and get rid of the things the senior does not need anymore, but the caregiver should not make the senior feel useless or near death when it comes to discussing heirlooms.
If a caregiver notices a senior talking about the same thing over and over again, do not respond by asking, “Why do you constantly talk about that?” It can become annoying hearing a story numerous times, but the best way to respond is by saying, “I really enjoy that story and I can tell you do too.” Telling stories and remembering the past are important in making connections with others, but it can become tiresome after hearing it so many times. Just listen to them. Nothing is gained by arguing and trying to remind the senior that you know this story.
Words matter, especially to elderly people with memory problems. A caregiver or family member should choose their words carefully when interacting with someone who is depending on them.
For more information on dementia care strategies, please visit this page.