Healing words for people with dementia


Today’s guest blogger is Ryan Hughes. Ryan is in his final year of nursing and passionate about helping others and sharing his thoughts in the online world.

Dementia is one of the most challenging health conditions that can affect a spouse, family member or friend. Dementia can be frightening and confusing for those who suffer this loss of memory and other mental functions – it also typically causes the same types of feelings in their loved ones, who are often uncertain about how to deal with the situation.

It’s important for caregivers, family and friends to remember that people who are receiving dementia care often realise they are slowly losing their mental abilities and that this decline can be terrifying. However, whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease (the most common dementia) or one of the other estimated 50 forms of the disease, there are some things you can say and discuss with dementia patients to help them feel safe, loved and secure.

from: Aged Carer at www.agedcarer.com.au

Validation therapy, an approach developed by Naomi Feil several decades ago, might also be called “be there now”. That is, you accept the “where” and “when” reality of the person with dementia, even though it may be completely illogical to you. For the patient, the apparent nonsense is an attempt to communicate his or her reality.

For example, if your Aunt Sarah is sitting in her living room and announces she
wants to pick up her kids at school, you validate her reality while also diverting her attention from that request.

Your response to Aunt Sarah’s comment might be, “How are the kids doing in school?” or “How did the kids do on their last report card?” This type of response can disarm the stress that both you and the person with dementia would feel if you were to tell her that her kids are grown up and don’t go to school any more. In her mind, at least for a few moments, her children are still at school and so you also need to “be there now.”

‘Tell me’ or ‘Remember when?’

Two effective lead-in phrases to use when dealing with people with dementia are “tell me” or “remember when?” Patients with dementia generally have a good memory for people and events from their distant past. You can initiate a conversation by asking someone to “tell me” what it was like growing up in such and such a town or what kind of job they had when they left school.

If you need help initiating a “tell me” or “remember when” conversation, you can use old photos or photo albums, play music from the person’s past or watch an old movie together.

from Aged Carer: www.agedcarer.com.au

Say ‘I love you’
Everyone wants to be loved and that includes people with dementia. Be sure to
let them know they are a valuable person who is loved. Besides saying “I love you” or “I care about you” every day, you can also demonstrate caring by offering your hand. Some people with dementia don’t like being touched or react differently to touch at different times. It’s always better to offer your hand rather than grab theirs or to ask if you can give a hug rather than move ahead without inquiring first.


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