For those who have full faculties, having a logical conversation with someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be frustrating, if not impossible. It is very tempting to remember those who suffer from this aliment as he or she was years ago – or maybe even fairly recently. This article is about some of the typical scenarios that create greater anxiety for an Alzheimer’s patient. By avoiding these mistakes, your visits can be much more pleasant for you and those about whom you care.
Do not make them wrong.
Frequently your loved one will be wrong and the temptation to correct them will be great. Unless their statement is a precursor to them taking a dangerous action, allowing them to save face will be far more beneficial. Afterall, given the larger picture, what difference does it make? It is best not to contradict them at all. Depending on their level of awareness, they may realize their error and feel bad about it anyway. If they don’t, correcting them may just be embarrassing and make them feel worse.
Do not argue.
Arguing with a person who suffers from dementia is never a good idea. In the first place, you cannot win. Secondly, doing so will probably upset them or make them angry. The best thing to do is simply change the subject. Pick a subject that is a pleasant topic. That may immediately attract his or her attention and they will likely forget about the topic about which you disagreed.
Do not start any conversation with “Do you remember…”.
There is great temptation to “test” the patient. Seeking personal reassurance of this type is selfish and causes unnecessary embarrassment or, worse, angst. Eliminate any sentences that start “Do you remember… (meal / person / activity). In most cases, they will not remember. Otherwise, they would not have been diagnosed with dementia. Not doing this will make your visit go more smoothly. A good alternative is eliminating the question mark. It is better to say “I remember when we had such a good time on our trip to the beach. It was great fun.” Whether they remember the beach trip or not, they are not put on the spot to do so.
Do not bring up the dead.
Sometimes a person with Alzheimer’s believes a deceased loved one is still alive. They may express some confusion or hurt that the decedent person does not call or visit. By telling them that that person has died, they may not even believe you and become argumentative or angry. If they do believe you, they may relive the shock of learning that someone for whom they care is dead. Furthermore, they will likely forget your “news” and go back to believing that the subject of the conversation is still alive. The exception to this rule is when the patient asks the question in an affirmative manner and wants confirmation that someone is gone. In that case the answer in their mind is presumed and it is best to be honest. Even still, there is the great likelihood that they will soon forget the exchange and go on to another topic.
Do not bring up upsetting topics.
There is never a good reason to bring up a topic you know will upset a person with dementia. For example, if you and the patient disagree on politics, avoid the topic. Not doing so may kindle a disagreement which brings us back to the arguing rule. You cannot win – and if you did, what was your gain? Additionally, you have created anger or frustration for the patient.
Keeping these ideas in mind will allow visits with loved ones who suffer from dementia to be far more pleasant and enriching.