The number of people diagnosed with dementia is rapidly increasing. If you have a loved one living with dementia, you may ask how you can help make their lives as normal as possible. Preserving their dignity and honoring their wishes will bring them a lot of comfort and reassurance. Here are some ways to help maintain a sense of self-worth.
- Every person has likes and dislikes. This includes respecting their spiritual beliefs, the foods they prefer to eat, and the things they like to do.
- Don’t be condescending, patronizing or disrespectful. Speak kindly and compliment them genuinely and generously. Don’t have conversations about them in their presence as if they were not there. It can also involve not using such words as bib, diaper or baby-talk words like potty. Answer questions with patience, no matter how many times you may have to repeat your answer.
- Your loved one’s cognitive and physical capabilities will change over time. Allow them to do as much as they can, such as bathing or feeding themselves. Let them help with light chores. Give them tasks they can accomplish to help maintain their independence but don’t expect more from them than they are capable of doing. Find the strength in their current capabilities. This may even help delay the progression of the disease.
- Carefully plan for successful outings or trips. Consider the distance and time of day of the trip. This will make you and your loved one more comfortable.
- Prepare family members and friends for any changes that may have happened since they last saw the person with dementia. This is particularly important for family gatherings or holidays, and may also include calling ahead to a restaurant and speaking to the manager or host/hostess about seating arrangements or special diets.
- Keep it simple. When you’re speaking to him or her, provide one piece of information or one instruction at a time and wait before proceeding to the next one. Give the person time to process information or instruction. He or she is still perfectly capable of understanding you; they may just need a little extra time to process what you’ve said.
Treat those living with dementia with respect, patience and dignity. It might take a little bit more time on your part, but it will be well worth your effort. Remember the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like others to treat you.
By Shelley Winter, contributing writer and community relations director at Oaks at Towne Lake.