Family members and professionals alike struggle with how to interact with a person living with the bewildering condition of dementia. As a caregiver, it’s easy to forget that this person can often answer and follow much more of a conversation than given credit for.
These are two “magic phrases” that many times will get the person’s attention and foster meaningful interaction: “Would you help me with this?” and “I need your help”. Individuals still long for a sense of purpose and when engaged in this way, he/she indeed feels that they are still a part of things.
We all feel valued and respected when asked to give advice or to help with something. As a caregiver, we feel we matter. The same is still true for people with dementia. Although the advice or help may or may not be quite on track, they will notice that we asked and are willing to listen to them. The same feelings of value and respect remain.
Actually, more times than not, I’m surprised by the response that tells me the person not only knows what I’m talking about, but offers spot–on insight. I saw this first-hand when I recently visited my brother who has mid stage dementia. I was lamenting, mostly to myself, that I will be turning 60. I said, out loud, “Sixty! How did this happen?” Without missing a beat my brother replied, “Well, we grow older every year and wiser and then it just comes around to that.” I was shocked and it made me smile. I was given a reminder that he was still with me.
So, next time you are at a loss for how to connect, you might say, “Tell me your thoughts on…” (Recipes, a favorite season, songs, politics, or anything about just plain life). See what gems, humor, and stories you discover. The person with dementia will thank you for it.