Q: THE post read “Should you correct someone with dementia?”
A: The question is a popular topic and the answer posed a question back asking; “how would YOU feel if you were constantly corrected?”
The common thought was that correcting a person with dementia would help them remember and repetition is helpful. The challenge with this response and behaviour is that the information you are correcting them with is new information to them each time you correct them. And each time you tell someone “no, don’t you remember? Remember we do it like this, I told you just a minute ago” you are increasing their anxiety level. You are reminding them that their brain is not working correctly and these cause emotions like sadness/depression and agitation if they are at a stage where they do not know their brain is failing them. The agitation is coming from the thoughts of “Why are you correcting me I do this all the time! Quit telling me what to do!” This is frustrating to the person with dementia as it would be to you if someone were doing that to you. It is proven that this type of correction is not effective with persons living with Alzheimer’s or related dementias. When someone with dementia believes something to be true, It is true in Alzheimer’s world. The best response is to go with their flow. Many people say “ok” and then in another moment, if appropriate, may show them the correct way or tell them the correct message and many times they will not even know they gave you the incorrect response a moment ago.
Q: Dear Ms. Posvar, My mum has been having trouble with falling recently. She seems not unbalanced. I bought her a walker but she does not use it. My family told me it was a waste to buy as she will not remember to use it. What can I do to reduce her falls?
A: I am guessing the doctor can’t find anything wrong to cause the imbalance is why you bought the walker. There is good news for you. Studies have found that people with dementia can learn new things. If your mom is using the wall or furniture to keep her balance she will use the walker. The only way to train her is to constantly have that walker with her. Always give her the walker every time she gets up. If she leaves it and walks away from it, sweetly give it to her. Don’t tell her remember to use it, you help her memory. After a while it will be automatic as she will feel like it is her purse or reading glasses that she cannot go without. It becomes automatic. Now the key is keeping up with her to always have it in her reach. There will be times after it becomes automatic to her that she still will forget, but you have dramatically decreased her risk of falling.
Q: Dear Nurse Posvar, I do not have a question but I wanted to share a bit of humour. I appreciate your column and would like to share with your readers. I am health aid and I care for elderly persons. I had a male patient that liked to play golf. He had a stroke and was not able to play golf for a while. As his strength build up we took him out in his yard to practice. I normally had to hold his belt to keep him from falling over when he bent over. One time he did fall right on top of me in an awkward position. The elderly patient looked at me and said “we have to stop meeting like this” and we both burst into laughter and it took the pressure of the situation away. If I did not find humour in my work, I do not think I would survive.
This is a great story and thank you. Humour is important to cargiving. Although caregiving is very challenging, laughter can go a long way. It is actually essential that humour be a part of your daily care. It is in the moments that you can find humour and there is nothing wrong with laughing even when you do not feel like it.
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