Whether you care for a family member or you work in the field, find out more about who your patient was before their memory loss. When you pay attention to some of the little things that were special in their lives you will be able to provide a level of care that not all dementia sufferers are getting. That level includes the respect that your loved one needs and deserves.
Some things are obvious: Did she enjoy television, or maybe prefers listening to music? Did she usually shower or take a bath? Was bathing in the morning or evening? Did he prefer to be clean shaven or sport some facial hair?
While being aware of these obvious behaviors is essential, it’s equally necessary to learn about the deeper characteristics and nuances of your patient or loved one.
My mom was always an outgoing, social and proper woman. It was important to her that other people had what they needed and that everyone was happy and comfortable. I’ve noticed this hasn’t changed with her since she’s had dementia. No matter what you say, she will not sit down to eat a meal until everyone sits and has their meal too. If mom is told repeatedly to sit down before that time, she will become agitated and maybe even storm out of the room. If my mother is not able to say a friendly, “Goodbye! We’re leaving for the summer now.” to the librarian, she will get agitated-in public. This agitation can be avoided by knowing what she really wants and caring enough to give it to her.
On rare occasions we still have small family gatherings to celebrate a birthday or holiday. I think we all know these times are hard for someone with dementia. My mom can’t follow a conversation at all. Nor can she add her two cents as she is unable to speak well. She feels the most comfortable taking care of others. Mom will offer her food, her beverage and her seat to everyone. She’s 87! Yet she still needs to take care of others. Rather than insist that she sit down and eat, I try to help her help others. She appreciates this and will be less prone to confusion and agitation.
For years, I’ve noticed how my mom likes to set a nice table. She still enjoys taking the time to spread the table cloth, add a centerpiece, be sure the dishes and utensils match and place a folded napkin at each place setting. Now, my mother has progressed to a point where she can no longer do these things, but she will stand and watch in delight as I arrange and rearrange until we see perfection. Just because she can’t do it doesn’t mean she no longer cares.
I could give more examples but I think you get my point here: Show respect and take the time for the little things. When all is said and done, you’ll have many more happy memories and a lot less tantrums.