Meeting the emotional needs of people living with dementia
Meeting the emotional needs of people living with dementia can be hard.
Often a person can have trouble expressing themselves, which may lead to frustration as a result. The best thing to remember is that each person is an individual, and all behaviour is a means of communication, how you respond in any situation should be personal to the individual – this is often called person-centred approach, or personally tailored care.
Approaching difficult conversations
Communication can be difficult for both the person living with dementia and those caring.
For example, someone could be asking to see a relative who is no longer alive, and it is hard to know how best to respond when you don’t want to upset or challenge the person who may be living with a different sense of reality. Telling the blatant truth could cause significant distress. Distracting them could also leave the person more confused and frustrated.
Focus on the emotions being expressed
In this difficult situation it helps to focus on the emotions being expressed rather than the facts of the situation, and acknowledge what the person might be feeling, for example, “I can see you look upset, can I sit with you for a while and you can tell me about your mum”.
By showing that you recognise their emotions and exploring why they are asking for that relative, you can help them to feel supported and secure, allowing space and time to explore what you might be able to do to reassure and help. The better you know the person, the less complex this is to deal with.
Look for the meaning behind the words
In any circumstance, to begin to understand what that person might be saying, first try to consider the context of the question being asked. Look beyond what the person is saying to find the meaning behind the words and try to the identify the need they may be expressing.
Look after yourself as well as your loved one
Caring for loved ones with dementia can be challenging as well as fulfilling, and it is important to have time to recharge and look after yourself too.
There will be frustrations, perhaps on both accounts, but remembering the individual and taking time to acknowledge and validate what they are feeling is important.
You can find more information and details of charities set up to provide support for people living with dementia, as well as their carers, in our Reframing Dementia guide here.
Related information about dementia
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