Caring for an elderly parent with dementia can be challenging. All of us want to be treated with respect and dignity and this is how we should treat our Mum or Dad if they are diagnosed with dementia and gradually go through the three different stages of the disease.
Dementia affects each person differently with the progression of the disease varying. We are all unique individuals and thus we need to be treated differently – what works for one person may not work for another.
People with dementia have difficulty processing information and expressing themselves.
By keeping a calm and patient demeanour and speaking slowly (avoid infantilising), it will help them to understand you and not become agitated. They are then more likely to understand and follow your instructions.
Keep instructions simple and clear, use short sentences with a gentle tone, and give them time to understand and process the information you have given.
Language is important, but being a good active listener and watching for non-verbal body cues, is also vital. Try not to finish their sentences for them, and try not to interrupt.
Understood & supported
Your body language should be positive with eye contact, smiling warmly, and using gestures or touch (if appropriate). This helps to keep them at ease and make them feel understood and supported.
Never talk down to them. They are adults and deserve to be treated and talked to with respect.
Avoid condescending tones. Do not allow someone to speak to them through you, but to rather speak to them directly and encourage independence and decision-making.
Always involve them in the conversation and be respectful of their choices and decisions.
Engage in meaningful conversations, helping to bring out positive emotions and tap into their long-term memories rather than what happened yesterday.
Empathy, kindness and understanding
Chat about their interests, hobbies, past work experiences, family and pets. Even if their memories or perceptions are inaccurate, it is important to validate their feelings and experiences.
Dementia can be very frustrating and confusing for not only your loved one, but for yourself as well. Show empathy, kindness and understanding, creating an environment that is safe and supportive for them. Arguing or correcting them will not only frustrate or cause distress, but make you as frustrated as them.
Providing dementia care can be physically and emotionally demanding, and caregivers need support to maintain their own well-being throughout the caregiving journey.
At TPC, we strive to make a meaningful difference by helping to improve the overall well-being of Australia’s seniors. If you’d like more guidance on how to help Mum, Dad or your older loved one to be more physically active, get in touch with The Physio Co! Our team of physiotherapists are here to help: call today for a no-obligation chat on 1300 797 793.
Article written by Karleen Scott (physiotherapist and TPC team leader for SA and NSW)