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  • Today Online

Dementia conundrum — strategies for caregivers

• By Dr. Kathy Subasic — Special to Today Magazine •

If you care for a loved one with dementia, I don’t have to tell you that the responsibility can be rewarding, but also draining and stressful.

In Connecticut alone, there are about 80,000 people 65 and older who have Alzheimer’s disease — the most common type of dementia — and about 180,000 caregivers.

Caring for someone with dementia often involves managing challenging behaviors such as refusing care, wandering, repetitive actions, shadowing and aggression, among others. Additionally, a person with dementia may be unable to think and problem-solve as he or she once did, creating confusion and frustration for the person with dementia and the care partner.

Understanding these behaviors and developing solutions can be complex. However, the following strategies are particularly effective in many situations.

Strategy #1 — Simplify the Task

Many routine tasks and activities we do throughout the day have multiple steps. Activities that seem simple and obvious to us — such as making a small meal or getting dressed — may not seem as simple to a person with dementia.

To make the activity more manageable, break the activity down into basic steps that can be accomplished one by one until the entire activity is completed.

Strategy #2 — Use a Calm Voice

When frustration occurs or an overwhelming situation arises, voice volume may rise. It’s easy to slip into a loud voice and agitated disposition, but as a result, the person with dementia will likely become upset and agitated as well.

Speaking in a calm voice works best in everyday situations and also can diffuse a difficult situation.

Strategy #3 — Provide Simple Instructions

Dementia has multiple stages that influence how well the person with dementia can follow instructions. Telling a person with dementia to “go get dressed” may be too confusing as the person may not know exactly what that means or how to start.

Simplifying instructions — such as “put on your pants” and “put on your socks” — provides simpler tasks that will be more easily understood and more likely to be followed.

Strategy #4 — Demonstrate

Someone with dementia may have difficulty understanding verbal instructions. Providing a demonstration of how to do something in addition to verbal instructions will result in greater likelihood of the task being done successfully.

Most importantly, caregivers need to take care of themselves by learning relaxation strategies and by taking time for themselves to find some balance in their busy lives.

• Dr. Kathy Subasic is an Avon resident, occupational therapist and Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) — and the owner of Forever Home LLC, offering dementia-care training, fall assessments and home-modification services to improve safety • 860-829-7870


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