Most people understand enough about dementia to know they never want to be diagnosed with it. Yet an estimated 6.2 million Americans over the age of 65 currently live with Alzheimer’s. It is the most common form of dementia.
Those with first-hand experience caring for someone with dementia, know the value of friends and family. Offering support and being part of their “care team” is invaluable. However, that support may prove difficult due to communication challenges when speaking to someone with Alzheimer’s. First, people are often concerned about saying the wrong thing. Second, they don’t know how to respond to statements. And behaviors can be confusing or even frightening to them.
At a recent conference held at the University of Minnesota, speaker Deb Nygaard, a professional in the field with 30+ years of experience, presented a few facts meant to help caregivers understand dementia:
- The brain is dying – 2/3 of the brain will degenerate, greatly diminishing mental capacity.
- People with cognitive decline are not trying to be difficult. They are doing the best they can.
- The person living with dementia is ALWAYs right. Correcting their choice of words, recollections of events, names of people or everyday items is futile. This can harm their self-esteem. Meeting your loved ones “where they are” will be beneficial to you both.
Of course, you will make mistakes. There is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. A simple apology such as “I’m sorry I spoke to you that way” is helpful. “I’m sorry I made you angry” will make you both feel better.
Visit the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) for detailed information. Discover how you can make a difference in the search for a cure. To join the Choice Connections Team on Sept. 30 or to tonate to the cause see our Team page here.