FlowersChallenging Behaviors for the Caregiver

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By Elisabeth A Hinman-Smith M.S.W. & Lisa P. Gwyther M.S.W.

"Some days I can't understand a word he says. When I ask him to repeat things, he gets angry with me."

* Choose short simple sentences, but speak to the person as an adult. Speak slowly and repeat if needed, using the same wording.

* Give the person extra time to respond to your statements. It sometimes takes the memory-impaired person a little longer to process information and formulate an answer.

* Carefully monitor your tone of voice. Even when the person has trouble understanding your words, they can and are adept at reading emotional messages like irritation or anger. Try to remain calm and speak in a low tone.

* Give the person one instruction at a time. If necessary, break down instructions into separate tasks.

* If you cannot understand the verbal content of what the person says, try to respond to the emotional content. This can help the person feel better understood.

* Do not bombard the person with questions - you could cause a catastrophic reaction. Watch for signs of frustration. Try to use statements rather than questions. Try "It's time to take your bath now" rather than "Would you like to take tour bath now or later?"

* Do not assume the person cannot understand what is being said. Do not talk about them as if they are not there. Always treat them with respect since lucid or insightful periods can continue well into the course of the dementia.

(c) copyright 1996


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