Self-Image: The Essence of Dementia Care

There are many training sessions that are available through community resources on how to care for the dementia patient.

The mind of the patient with dementia (most commonly Alzheimer’s, but also Lewy-Body disease, Fronto-temporal Dementia, and other less common forms) is no longer capable of performing the way it used to.  The patient may have a thought but is unable to express it with the right words.  She may want to hold something but her arms and hands do not move the way she intended.  In addition, the way her mind processes incoming information has changed as well.

Much of dementia training focuses on how we need to adjust our communication.  Speak in simpler, clearer terms.  Do not argue or reason with higher logic; simply redirect.  Maintain a cheery disposition, a smile and a gentle way.  Dementia patients still sense emotion and feeling even if they do not comprehend the words.

Young Woman Older WomanA critical nuance that dementia training sometimes fails to emphasize is that positive self-image is a scarce commodity among patients.   Our loved ones understand that something is wrong.  It’s no treat to realize that you can’t do the things you used to and that you can’t participate in conversations as before.   It makes matters worse when a son or daughter rolls their eyes, and throws up their arms in despair, frustrated with our behavior.

A positive self-image can be fostered and, fortunately, memory-impaired people experience increased self-esteem when placed in an environment or given opportunities where they can succeed.  When the environment fosters increased self-esteem, well-being and functioning can improve.  In her book, Activities and Approaches for Alzheimer’s, Sally Freeman notes that many of the problem behaviors associated with dementia are not part of the disease itself, but are our loved ones’ emotional response to the disease.

That’s the essence of our Sharing while Caring TM program.  There is comfort when someone realizes they can  participate, add value and be responsible for something from start to finish.  Specially designed group programs are also helpful in allowing the dementia patient an opportunity to participate in an adult-like environment.

The thing to remember when dealing with dementia patients is that activities, communications and interactions should help them preserve self-image and allow them to feel good about themselves.