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Dementia Care: Preserving Dignity and Respect

A person living with dementia has real desires, unique needs, and a purpose to fulfill. As a dementia care partner, you play a vital role in helping them experience a complete and meaningful life. By treating them with dignity throughout their dementia care journey, you can nurture a trusting, healthy, and joyful relationship.

Everyone deserves to experience unconditional joy. At Bella Groves, we provide individuals, families, and caregivers with dementia education and tools to help them better understand the complexities of dementia – as well as the opportunities they can provide to develop stronger relationships. By following these steps you can learn how to maintain a person’s dignity while providing dementia care.

Meet Them Where They Are

As a care partner to a person living with dementia, you should meet them where they are – both physically and emotionally. To meet them where they are physically means being mindful of the impact dementia is having on their abilities and health.

For example, dementia can cause a loss in peripheral vision, making their field of vision more narrow. While you may think they see you approaching, a person living with dementia may not see you if you come up to them from behind or the side. When you enter a room, be sure to approach them in their line of sight, maintain eye contact, and smile. By doing this, you create a warm, welcoming environment.

In contrast, approaching from the side or back or tapping them to get their attention, can create an unsafe, stressful situation for them. 

Of course, meeting a person living with dementia where they are is more than a physical act. As a care partner, you can help them maintain their dignity by meeting them where they are emotionally. This means orientating to their reality. Instead of reacting instinctively, take a moment to reorient your perspective to that of the person living with dementia. To learn more about reorientation, we encourage you to read our blog, Reorienting Thoughts and Responses in Dementia Care.

Your primary goal is to build a helpful and trusting relationship. The focus should not be “getting them to remember” something they have forgotten, but rather helping them live each day with vitality and purpose.

Build Trust

Imagine you walk into a room full of people. They seem nice and are smiling, but when they speak to you, they are using a language you do not understand. After a while, you begin to feel isolated, anxious, and lonely. They ask you questions you don’t know the answers to, prompt you with ‘Don’t you remember? I told you earlier.” 

This is in small part what a person living with dementia may experience. If you were in this situation, you would need someone to serve as a partner and guide, someone who will help you feel safe and secure.

That is your role as a dementia care partner. Each new day is an opportunity for you to build trust with a person living with dementia. Although they may not remember what you told them, and in some cases may forget who you are, your positive energy and kindness will make an imprint. 

To build trust with someone living with dementia often means letting go of your previous relationship role. If you were a daughter, son, spouse, or friend, your relationship with the person may change. If you hold onto old roles, attempt to argue, reason, or “make” them remember, you risk alienating them and making them feel scared and alone.

Treat each moment as a relationship-building moment. If they forget what you said previously, restate it for them. If they have forgotten you, introduce yourself with a smile. Forming a care partnership with a person living with dementia is not about continuing a life-long relationship. It is about forging a new one, built on trust, dignity, and respect.

Enrich Activities with Meaning

A person living with dementia is a whole person. They desire lives of vitality, so activities should not aim to simply pass the time but to evoke purpose, create joy, and enhance wellness.

Understanding their preferences, skills, and abilities can help you determine the best way to involve them in different situations. When doing this, it is helpful to remember that dementia can cause changes not only in brain function but in preferences as well. Something they used to love doing may not interest them. In that case, it is best to move forward and offer a different activity.

A person living with dementia is like any other person in this way – they want to be useful. By including meaningful activities in their daily routine, you enhance their sense of purpose. If you’d like a consultation from one of our dementia experts regarding safe and engaging activities, please contact us directly.

Adjust & Adapt

Dementia care is an ever-changing process. No two days will be alike. Knowing this, one of the best ways you can help a person living with dementia preserve their dignity and respect is by remaining flexible.

As things change, you must be willing to change with them. Remaining too rigid in your thinking or planning will lead to stress and frustration, qualities that will never help a situation. Treat each day, each encounter, as new, and look for opportunities in every moment to grow a profound relationship filled with trust and dignity. 

Bella Groves provides compassionate residential memory care to individuals and families in San Antonio and the surrounding areas. Our dementia care experience is based on years of research and training. Bella Groves’ mission is to help people living with dementia lead purposeful, joyful lives. To access dementia education and valuable resources, visit our website today.

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