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Tips for Dementia Caregivers

Planning a Skilled Nursing Stay:
The Transition between Hospital and Home

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Here are some tips on how to maintain a positive
connection with someone with dementia.

  • Avoid “sneaking up.” Try to approach from the front. Pause approximately six feet away and let the person with dementia acknowledge you. Once they have, it’s okay to proceed closer, but always respect their personal space.
  • Greet the person by name. Always introduce yourself—even if you are sure they know you. For example: “Hi Thelma, I’m Joe. It’s our day to do art together.”
  • Keep your tone positive, friendly, and at a normal volume—loud enough to be heard without unnecessary yelling.
  • Speak slowly and in simple, short sentences with only one idea per sentence. For example: “What a beautiful day. The sunshine is nice, isn’t it?” or “Tell me about your daughter.”
  • Try not to talk down to people with dementia or use baby-talk. And don’t talk above them (or about them with other people) as if they’re not there.
  • Make eye contact and stay at eye level. Give a compliment. Gesture to yourself and then point to them. “What a beautiful necklace.” “I love that pink color on you.”
  • Offer only 2 choices at a time. “Would you like blue paint or yellow?”
  • Divide directions into small steps. Only give 1 step at a time.
  • Frame up requests by asking for help. For example, “Would you please help me with your shoes” instead of “Be still so I can put on your shoes.”
  • WAIT! Give someone with dementia extra time to speak or answer questions. Don’t rush the conversation.
  • Use open-ended questions during conversations, because there are no wrong answers.
  • Avoid pointing out mistakes, so the person with dementia doesn’t feel badly. Correcting them doesn’t help the conversation.
  • Remember to not take things personally. In some cases, people with dementia may have lost their “filter.” The disease may twist their words or make them react badly out of confusion, fear, or anger.
  • Try to stay away from phrases like “do you remember” that can cause anger or embarrassment.
  • When someone expresses sadness, fear or anger, it’s okay to validate their feelings with phrases like: “I bet that makes you sad/mad.”
  • Leverage what you know about the person to keep conversation going. Do you know their favorite color? Are they a Reds fan? Finding something that they like will allow you to make a better connection.
  • Gesture and point when appropriate. Be ok with sitting together in silence. They may enjoy that just as much as talking.
  • Don’t give up! Most people with dementia still enjoy socializing. Your efforts will help them maintain connections with the people and world around them.

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