Good Intentions: Mistakes to Avoid When Caring for Someone with Moderate to Severe Memory Loss

Sadly, it is all too common for us all to suffer a certain degree of memory loss as we get older, and dementia is a distressing sight when it happens to a loved one.

There are some great facilities available to help with memory care, such as Parc Provence for example, and if you are trying to care for someone with moderate to severe memory loss, here are a few pointers on how to cope on a daily basis as well as a look at some of the mistakes that can happen, despite your good intentions.

Some sufferers don’t do rational

If you are charged with caring for a loved one who is suffering from dementia, it is worth remembering as one of the primary rules of engagement, that in a number of different scenarios, it often turns out that a bit counterintuitive thinking is what is required.

It is often the case when you are dealing with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia, that trying to be reasonable and rational with your loved one, feels like definitely the right thing to do and the most compassionate approach, but in fact, that is just the opposite of how you might need to approach the issue.

If you find that your loved one is displaying behavior and acting in a way that is not only out of character, but doesn’t make any sense, the most obvious reaction would be to try and reason with them and apply some logic as way of defusing the situation.

It should be remembered that your loved one may not have the same level of control over their brain functions as you currently enjoy. This can often result in a situation where they don’t respond to arguments or logical suggestions in a conventional or rational way.

The best way is often to keep things simple and adopt a tactic that works on the premise that sometimes the right thing to do, is the polar opposite of what actually seems to be the right thing to do.

It takes some courage and discipline on your part to adopt this stance with your loved one, but you may well be pleasantly surprised and how effective this approach can be.

Understanding aggression

Seeing a loved one become aggressive, either verbally, physically, or both, is likely to be distressing, especially if this is wildly out of context with the person that you know.

The important thing to keep in your mind when this scenario plays out, is that your loved one is not actually displaying this behavior through choice.

There are several things that can trigger a bout of aggression. It might be that they are physically uncomfortable but can’t communicate this fact effectively, or it might be that your loved one finds their current environment upsetting for some reason, such as being in unfamiliar surroundings which make them feel fearful.

People who are suffering from dementia often have a propensity to display aggression, with verbal aggression a common factor, along physical responses such as kicking, hitting out, or biting.

This can be quite shocking when you are on the receiving end of this behavior from a loved one, but remember, these reactions are often borne out of fear or frustration, and should therefore be taken in context, however distressing it is to you when you are trying to care for them.

Stretching the truth might seem wrong, but could be the right thing to do

Relationships are founded on trust and honesty, so it therefore will feel like you are going against all of those fundamental instincts and feelings, when you find yourself in a situation where you might have to stretch the truth with a loved one, for their own good.

In a conventional relationship between two people who have love and respect for each other, honesty is clearly the best policy. However, dementia might cause you to bend those rules to a certain extent, especially when it helps your loved one to cope better with their condition and allows you to get them the treatment they need.

If your loved one thinks they are going to the daycare center as a helper rather than a patient, it might be better to let them think that is the case rather than attempt to correct them. Not telling them that you are on the way to the doctors until you get there, is another example of how stretching the truth or providing selective information, might just prove to be the right strategy and could save them some unnecessary distress, even if it feels a bit dishonest.

If you are caring for someone who has dementia, it will be an emotional and maybe even a physical challenge, but despite the frustrations, remember that your loved one is often unable to control their response to your care, in a conventional way.

Maya Tucker’s mother in law has dementia and Maya uses her first hand experience to offer help and support online to those in a similar, heart breaking, situation. Her articles appear on eldercare, health, and lifestyle blogs.