I want to share some bullet points about “How to Be a Friend to Someone Living with Dementia” taken from The Wall Street Journal this week.
- Educate yourself. There are many stages and kinds of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, which manifest themselves differently in different people. (kind of like a cold- no two are alike)
- Be there. Call and invite your friend (or loved one) to do activities you both enjoy, whether it’s fishing, shopping or going out to lunch. (take them anywhere and everywhere)
- Ask what they are comfortable doing and what they need help with. They may need a ride or help moving the lawn, shopping or cooking a meal. (or paying their bills, getting their affairs in order)
- Talk directly to them, not to their spouse or partner. Make eye contact. Let them know it’s wonderful to see them. (They are still in there)
- Be patient, if someone asks a question repeatedly, don’t’ point that out. Just answer. Give them plenty of time and space for responses. They may be working hard to think about what they want to say. (sometimes they get confused- you may think they are telling a lie- but, what they are saying might have happened to them, just at a different time)
- Don’t correct or argue if they say something that isn’t accurate. That can add to feelings of embarrassment and frustration. (they may shut down all together- stop talking, stop wanting to do anything)
- Offer reminders. If your friend looks confused, give your name and connection. “Our kids played baseball together”. (Remind them how you know them- not how they know you)
- Don’t ask a series of questions, which can be confusing. Avoid questions like “what did you do today?” which requires short them memory and can be frustrating for someone with dementia. Better to ask questions that someone in any stage can answer and that show you care, like “how do you feel today?” (ask them a question about their past- they usually can bring up a story)
- If going out, avoid loud, crowded places. They can be overwhelming. (when dinning, ask them what they would like and see if it’s ok for you to order for both of you, try to order the same thing for both of you)
- Touch is important. Hug. Offer a gentle touch on the arm or hand or shoulder. People with dementia sometimes feel others are afraid of them. (Hug them, hold their hand while you are walking or sitting- then recall a memory the two of you had together- they will take it from there)
The best thing to do is just be there for them. Everyone needs someone to lean on (Lean On Me- Bill Withers).
Love & Light!