Time and time again, I’ve witnessed the frustration caregivers feel when their loved one with dementia slips into an alternate reality and begins behaving as if in a different place and time. Suddenly the caregiver becomes a character in the replay of some distant memory.
When this happens, caregivers often attempt to correct the elder with dementia. This often leads to conflict because reminders and reason just don’t work. While it’s instinctive to try to bring them back to reality by reminding them of the facts or asking them to remember previous conversations or events; what most caregivers don’t know is that this approach often makes the situation worse.
Living with dementia can be confusing and downright scary for your loved one. Using logic and reason to explain why you’re right and they’re wrong is likely to make them agitated, defensive or angry. Instead, respond to the intention or emotion behind their words and join them in their new reality. It’s okay to agree with things that aren’t true or bend the truth in harmless ways if it calms the situation. You can then gently distract them or redirect the conversation to a pleasant or neutral topic.
It’s important for caregivers to stay focused on the task at hand and be flexible and creative in getting things accomplished with dementia patients. Always remember the person that lives behind the impaired memory and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve.