A diagnosis of dementia can be distressing - both for people living with it and their loved ones. And although it's a journey with some huge changes along the way for all involved, there are ways to live positively and help to manage the condition that can bring you closer together. It all starts - like most changing circumstances in life - with understanding how to communicate. These skills will help you and your loved one to navigate the road ahead, cope with challenging moments and find ways to connect and support one another.
Approach Matters Positively
Many of us have a negative perception of what dementia means, but it's hugely important to focus on the positives of the situation. Try to approach your loved one in a positive manner, remembering that they may become confused or upset more easily. You can ‘tune in’ to this by use of your body language. Relax your shoulders and use your facial expression, soft tone of voice and physical touch to show love and consideration. This is likely to relax both of you and lead to better interactions. It also lines up powerful non-verbal cues that can be reassuring to someone who is having trouble taking in information.
Keep It Focused
Distractions aren’t good for either of you when you’re trying to connect, so turn off the television or radio, pop your phone on silent, and move to a quieter room. Use your loved ones name and gentle touch to call their attention to you and help them to focus on what you are saying. Maintain eye contact and speak clearly. You’ll be amazed at how much these simple adjustments can enhance your time together and help your loved one to feel reassured.
Learn Some Techniques To Handle Challenges
One of the learning curves with dementia is that situations can sometimes escalate into aggressive behaviour due to the frustrations your loved one will have and their condition. Should this happen, it's important for both of you to handle the situation well. Respect that their feelings about things are real and present - rather than disagreeing on the facts. Changing the subject or the immediate environment can be a real help if a situation feels like it's escalating and upsetting them. Connect with your loved one by acknowledging their feelings, asking them for help with a different activity or going for a walk. This can help to distract, calm and reassure them and stop a situation from getting worse - and remember your sense of humour and theirs! Being able to laugh at things is a great tonic for both of you.
Plan Activities Together
It’s important to still make memories together, within the limits of your loved one’s health. Things like singing and choir groups have been shown to have a huge positive impact on the mental state and general wellbeing of those living with dementia, so joining in with something like that together can be a source of joy for you both. Social contact in the right setting is also very important. Being able to see friends and regular visits from family are essential, so find activities that are easy to manage and that you can enjoy together.
Join a unique club for people living with dementia - based in the heart of Eastbourne, Ivy House is here to support with connection and social activity. Come and see us and discover the different the right environment can make.