Expert Advice on How to Communicate, Gain Cooperation, and Understand Behavior
Caring for aging parents provides adult children with the assurance that they are providing loving care. It also allows them to create more memories and spend more time with their parents as they approach the end of their lives. However, caregiving is not easy, especially when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. Resisting care and general stubbornness are two hallmarks of dementia, and they are two of the most common reasons that adult children seek caregiver assistance.
You are not alone if you are unsure how to deal with stubbornness in parents with dementia. Most family caregivers of loved ones with dementia struggle on a daily basis to get them to the doctor, gain their cooperation, persuade them to bathe and brush their teeth, and communicate with them. Continue reading for a comprehensive list of advice from other caregivers, medical professionals, gerontologists, and dementia specialists. Tips are classified and alphabetically listed within each category, but they are not ranked or rated in any way.
Power struggles should be avoided.
“Don’t push, nag, or scold your parents. Making ultimatums will only aggravate them, and yelling, arguing, or slamming doors could seriously harm the relationship.”
Inquire about the preferences of your loved one.
“Does your loved one have a preference for which family member or service provides care? While you may not be able to fulfill all of your loved one’s wishes, it is important to consider them. If your loved one is having difficulty understanding you, simplify your explanations as well as the decisions you expect him or her to make.”
Avoid asking too many questions.
“It is critical to provide manageable options with visual cues. Inquiring, ‘What would you like to wear?’ can be overwhelming because it presents too many options. Instead, ask, ‘Would you like the shirt with the yellow flowers or the shirt with the blue stripes?’ This narrows the options and makes it easier to communicate with a person suffering from dementia.”
Don’t ask a lot of questions or ask them in a complicated way.
“First and foremost, don’t bombard elders with questions or difficult decisions. Instead of asking, ‘Do you need to use the restroom?’ say, ‘We’re going to the restroom.’ Don’t use the word “shower” if it offends them. ‘Come with me,’ you say, and you find yourself in the shower. If a person with dementia is afraid, acknowledge it and tell them, “You are safe with me.” I’ll keep you safe.’ You can try to persuade them to do something once they’ve calmed down. One question that people with dementia frequently respond to is, ‘I really need your help.’ ‘Could you please assist me with this?'”
Examine your attitude.
“The issue is that your loved one is resisting help —they believe you may be exacerbating the situation by telegraphing your anger, resentment, and frustration through your body language. She claims that “many caregivers are unaware of the power of nonverbal communication, even with dementia patients.”
Pay attention to what your loved one is attempting to communicate through their stubbornness.
“While understanding dementia begins with knowing what to expect, it also includes knowing what causes these behaviors. You will be able to deal with the behaviors properly once you identify what triggers them. Generally speaking, almost anything can set off these emotions. Because the brain is the primary source of the disease, it is the most powerful trigger. However, environmental factors, your loved one’s health, or his or her medication can all play a role. Other times, patients may be more prone to these behaviors simply because they are ill or because they are participating in an unfamiliar activity. These behaviors are often the only way many people remember how to communicate.”
When communicating with your parent, speak less and use more visual cues.
“When someone has dementia, they tend to focus on what they see rather than what they hear. Our instinct as humans is to gather information from what we see. As changes in the brain make it more difficult to understand speech, visual information becomes even more dominant. That is why, when assisting someone with dementia, it is critical to limit the amount of talking and use clear visual cues. This improves your older adult’s understanding of what’s going on and allows them to cooperate more effectively.”
When communicating with your parent, use appropriate body language.
“You might need to use hand gestures and facial expressions to be understood. Pointing or demonstrating can be beneficial. Touching and holding the person’s hand may help to keep their attention and demonstrate your concern. A friendly smile and shared laughter can often convey more than words.”
“People with dementia must be treated as autonomous and competent individuals with unique skills and abilities that can be beneficial. They may, however, benefit from some accommodations for any difficulties they may be experiencing as a result of fluctuating abilities.”
Validation, distraction, and redirection are all options.
“If your relative becomes agitated and acts out whenever you try to assist her in getting dressed or bathing, there is a reason: Tasks that people with healthy brains can do on autopilot can be completely overwhelming for those with dementia, who struggle to remember and master every little step: how to put an arm through a sleeve, pull on socks, button a blouse. Keeping things as simple as possible, for example, by wearing clothing with few buttons or zippers, can help, as can calmly giving clear, simple instructions at every step of the way.”
Instead of forcing your loved one to do something, be patient and distract him.
“Do not coerce your loved one into doing anything because this may result in aggression. Try again later, after he or she has used a pleasant distraction. You could suggest going for a walk, watching a favorite television show, listening to music, or feeding the birds.”
Divide the medication-taking procedure into steps.
“Resisting medications may be a reaction to feeling rushed, fearful, or confused about what they are supposed to do. Feeling out of control can lead to resistance and anger. Break the process down into steps and explain what you’re doing in a reassuring and calm manner. Give them some time. Any aspect of the process in which they can participate should be encouraged. You may need to pour the water into the glass, but they can pick up the pill from the table and pop it into their own mouth. If they require assistance in getting the glass to their mouth, gently assist them.”