Communicating with People Living with Dementia

on the Thursday, September 13, 2018

“We’re not here to change the person with dementia, we have to change.”

That is the sentiment of Fronditha Care Personal Care Worker Leah Paul, who cares for people with dementia every day.

She has become a fount of knowledge for colleagues at the Fronditha Care Hippocrates residential age facility in Mayfield, who regularly go to her to seek advice on how to calm or entertain a resident with cognitive problems.

Dementia is a crippling illness that robs people of their memory and changes their personality. They become agitated, confused, apathetic and sometimes aggressive.

For family members dealing with their loved one’s diagnosis, it is a troubling time.

Placing a loved one in residential aged care is sometimes a hard choice to make, but Leah sees it as a way to help families enrich their relationships with their ailing loved ones by promoting interaction and happiness.

She has personally helped many family members become a lot more involved in their care.

“The best advice I can give is ‘everything is right, nothing is wrong’,” Leah says.

For someone with dementia, it’s hard for them to reconcile what they believe and what someone else is telling them.

Redirection is key, Leah says, for someone confused and getting a little agitated.

With one resident, Leah discovered she would confuse all the male residents for her brothers, which sometimes created some awkward situations.

Leah would redirect the female resident by saying to her “yes, that is your brother, but why don’t we go over here because he seems a bit agitated.”

That level of respect and calm character has made Leah a go-to-person for new employees.

“It’s very rewarding when you get through to the residents,” Leah says.

Music and sensory programs have been hugely beneficial to the residents who might be confused or not feeling very well.

“A song they like can really change someone’s mood,” she says.

Leah encourages family members to ask the nurses or personal care workers for advice on how to engage their loved ones and be more active in their care.

“It goes a long way,” Leah says.

September marks Dementia Awareness Month, with numerous activities and information sessions organised across Australia. Visit dementia.org.au to see what is on in your area.

Tips on communicating with loved ones with dementia:

  • Your words must match your body language (don’t have your hands on your hips, frustration shows)
  • Don’t disagree, they’ll shut down. Rather let them calm down and come back, or redirect them to another activity
  • Use music and sensory stimuli to connect if words aren’t working
  • Stay calm

Find out more about Fronditha Care.

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