It’s tempting to label the words and actions of loved ones as “difficult behaviors.” Instead, view these things as “communication”—and try to identify which basic human need your loved one is trying to meet. Also, look to initiate communications of your own to help make positive connections.
Allow your loved one to hold a familiar item, one that’s similar to the item you’re using to provide care. This simple act can bridge the gap between feeling a loss of control and maintaining dignity:
We may not have personally experienced all that a senior has, but we all share the same emotions. Tap into your own experiences to help acknowledge what your loved one is feeling:
By celebrating your loved one’s individuality, you preserve their dignity. Show how much you respect them by:
You and your loved one can strengthen your social bonds to ease the caregiver relationship. Sharing memories helps them in a variety of other ways:
As your loved one experiences memory loss and can no longer make decisions with confidence, they begin to depend on you more and more. However, dependency takes a toll on self esteem.
To balance this delicate situation, particularly during the early stages of memory loss, encourage your loved one to cultivate life skills. These are skills we all develop and use—things that provide a sense of purpose, accomplishment and individuality.
What activities did your loved one once enjoy? Did they have hobbies or an occupational skill they can still employ? Life skills may include painting, sculpting, storytelling, gardening, caring for pets or simply handling household chores. Look for skills that tap into your loved one’s implicit or procedural memory. Once you find a life skill that your loved one treasured, encourage them to use it regularly.
Get your loved one involved in an interest group for seniors, or have them lead one of their own. Encourage them to use their life skills whenever possible—not only will it stimulate them mentally, but it will also give their days new purpose.
Sunrise Senior Living's Vice President of Memory Care Services, Rita Altman, explains "centering," an important technique to help caregivers focus and prepare themselves for stressful and difficult situations.
Mealtimes help caregivers connect with a loved one and nurture their spirit as well as their body. They also provide an opportunity to engage life skills and help them maintain a sense of security, purpose and meaning.