Strategies of Caring for the Person with Dementia
Nothing is more personal than physically taking care of oneself. Bathing, dressing, and feeding ourselves are examples of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). These are central tasks to our independence and autonomy as adults. When older adults become dependent upon others for care, their very personhood is threatened. A strengths based approach to caregiving for a person with dementia focuses on completing cares with the person and not doing cares for the person. It is vital to involve the person in their own care process rather than delivering care to them. Modifying tasks by breaking them down into simpler steps and extending the amount of time it takes to complete a task will help a person with dementia successfully participate in his or her own care.
The following are just a few strategies that caregivers can take while assisting a person with dementia with their ADLs:
- Take a slower pace with all cares – offer one item and one step at a time
- Don’t be too concerned if clothes don’t match; insisting a person redress can lead to frustration
- Purchasing clothing that is a size or two larger may allow the person to dress more easily
- Ensure that there is enough light so the person with dementia can see what she is choosing to wear
- When assisting to bathe, always tell the person what is going to happen each step of the process
- Aroma therapy may help residents relax while bathing (for example, Lavender can be very soothing)
- Focus on life-long habits, time of the day for bathing, and if a person prefers a shower or bath
- Put underwear over incontinence products
- Do not scold or embarrass a person who relieves themselves inappropriately; use calming words to uphold their dignity
Communication between the person with dementia and the caregiver is vital. A caregiver should be able to listen and be open to all forms of nonverbal, verbal, and emotional language to understand the person. Considering previous lifestyle patterns is essential to creating a positive experience during caregiving. The attitude of the caregiver is also extremely important. People with dementia are very sensitive to mood, tone of voice and the feelings of the caregiver. Caregivers need to be aware of their own attitudes and body language in order to project an accepting and motivating image. By keeping some of these strategies in mind, caregiving for a person with dementia can become a better experience for the caregiver and the person being cared for.
By Mike Lorenz, Housing Manager at The Alton Memory Care & Edited by Emily Samsel, MSW from The Wellington Senior Living