Understanding Dementia Leads to Greater and More Sensitive Care

Lori J. Koller
Issue Date: 
May, 2018
Article Body: 

On April 11th, Right at Home (Westborough, Mass.), a private duty in-home care and assistance company, partnered with the Hopedale Senior center to offer an innovative Dementia Live™ training. The training was led by a team of Right at Home Certified Dementia Practitioners
Dementia Live is a process using specialized gear within a safe, experiential setting, which gives participants a real-life simulation of what it’s like to live with dementia. Dementia presents changes to the brain, and special gear simulates some of those changes and alters participants’ sensory abilities. Gloves diminish one’s sense of touch and fine motor skills, and the eyewear limits peripheral vision. Headsets play different sounds and noises during the exercise to mimic what it’s like for someone experiencing dementia’s progression; words
and sounds may seem meaningless or distorted. Trying to complete and remember the simple tasks that were allocated to each participant was difficult and frustrating for participants, each of whom gained greater awareness, understanding and a stronger appreciation of the ongoing struggles that affect people with dementia. Greater understanding leads to more sensitive care partnering.
Many people are dealing with a parent, family member, or friend with dementia. Understanding what this disease is and how it affects your loved one is the first step to caring for them.
Dementia gradually diminishes a person’s ability to communicate. They have difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions and have trouble processing their thoughts and understanding what others are communicating to them.
There are several things that one can do to communicate more effectively with a person suffering from dementia. Some examples of this are: eye contact, listening with understanding and interest, and limiting conversation to short simple sentences. One of the most important tips is to never argue with a person suffering from dementia. A person with dementia is not in the same “here and now” reality that their loved ones are in. They bounce back and forth between the present and the past. It is important to join in their world and be part of it by being understanding and expressing empathy. If they start speaking of someone who may have already passed, don’t remind them of the passing: they will relive that moment as if it just happened and it will cause them unnecessary pain. Go along with them and reminisce with them about that person or memory.
Creating a Dementia friendly home environment is also critical to the well being of an individual with dementia. Start by making small changes within the home that will enable greater independence for your loved one, like installing ample lighting, removing clutter to avoid falls, and labeling cabinets with a list of its contents, for example. People with dementia have times where they still want to make their own decisions and control their own life. It is important to find a way to maintain safety while also giving them the ability to make their own choices.
If you are dealing with a loved one with this disease, you are not alone. Right at Home of Eastern Worcester County is available to answer any questions you may have. 508-599-1122 x1132 or [email protected].