By Torie Temple & Tiffany White
An innocent conversation can quickly escalate into an argument between you and your loved one if you don’t choose your words carefully. Dementia care expert Teepa Snow suggests a couple of techniques caregivers can use to avoid uncomfortable situations.
Problem 1: Your mother doesn’t remember that you are taking her to her doctor appointment at 2:30.
Mother: “Why are you here?”
Wrong Response: “Don’t you remember? You told me last week to be here at 2:30?”
Right Response: “How about we go for ice cream before the appointment?”
Problem 2: Your mother makes embarrassing comments in public that draw attention.
Mother: “Oh, my. Look at that woman. Isn’t she fat?”
Wrong Response: “Mom, don’t say that! She can hear you.”
Right Response: Well, you know, she is a bit heavy. Now let’s go and get something to eat.”
Trying to change the person who has dementia, says Teepa, is one of the biggest mistakes caregivers make. Instead, she encourages caregivers to use statements like ‘I’m sorry…this is hard’ to show that they are validating and empathizing with the person. Or, consider reading The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementia and Memory Loss. Suggested by Gretchen Houchin, program director at Nazareth Home, this book is filled with the latest information on causes of dementia, how to deal with problems that arise in daily care and how to get outside support. Written by experts, Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins, it’s a great instructional guide for new caregivers.