Fall River Jewish Home

5 Tips for Reconnecting with a Loved One Who Has Dementia

Dementia can be as traumatic for family members and caregivers as it is for the person experiencing it. Behavioral issues are common among patients who are beginning to forget faces and places once so familiar and dear. They are often frightened, overwhelmed, and confused. These tips will help you cut through the fog so you can communicate more effectively in order to establish the calm.

1) Identify the Cause of the Reaction

Some dementia patients experience sudden and seemingly violent behavioral outbursts. In most cases, these are reactionary. The patient is reacting to something in his or her environment that is disturbing. The disturbance is often compounded by confusion and an inability to communicate thoughts and concerns.

These are some of the common causes of behavioral outbursts

  • Frustration over inability to perform certain tasks

  • Unfamiliar with the surroundings

  • Loud noises

  • Crowds

  • Pain or discomfort

Once you’ve identified the cause, it’s important to create a calming environment to help restore order, balance, and normalcy.

2) Use Music Therapy

Music is an incredible tool for managing mood in dementia patients – when chosen wisely. It evokes memories. Choose music associated with happy times, like the music played at weddings or during their courtship days. Choose music that is soothing and happy and watch how effective it is at soothing and improving moods. Sometimes, your loved one will even start dancing.

3) Avoid Overstimulation

During certain times of the year this can be a little more difficult. However, it’s highly effective if your goal is to avoid meltdowns. Focus on one activity at a time. Schedule restful periods between outings, particularly around the holidays, so that your loved one is well-rested and prepared to enjoy each adventure rather than being worn out from the last.

4) Consider Reminiscence Storytelling

Reminiscence therapy uses the senses combined with storytelling to benefit those who are being treated for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It offers several benefits including:

  • Improved cognitive functioning
  • Supports better moods
  • Boosts communication abilities

  • Relieves agitation and symptoms of depression

  • Helps re-establish connections with people and events from their past

  • Increases a sense of belonging in this world (a common problem among dementia patients)

  • Relieves boredom and stress from their conditions

5) Establish a Routine

Routines help. Sometimes the muscles remember things the mind forgets. The acts of getting up and getting dressed in the morning may be traumatic on some days, for both of you, but getting through it day after day, helps to make it part of the routine. Establishing a routine also helps you identify potential triggers so that you can adjust the routine to avoid them in the future. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as:

  • Wake up

  • Get dressed

  • Eat breakfast

  • Quiet activity or music

  • Physical activity

  • Memory activity

  • Lunch

Identify favorite activities and incorporate them into the routine.

Learning how to address and delay dementia-related meltdowns will help you stay connected with your loved one on good days and bad. Always remember that you should not take things said in the midst of a meltdown personally. It’s hard to watch someone you love experience the worst dementia has to throw at them. Don’t burn yourself out or force yourself to consider adult day care. Consider respite care at Fall River Jewish Home instead. Call 508.679.6172 today to learn how it can help you and start the process today.

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