Respect for a Senior with Dementia

respect for someone with dementiaRespect your elders! It’s a rule that’s been drilled into us from the time we were small. But how do you respect mom when she forgets your children’s names or wanders into a neighbor’s yard four houses down in the night? To make things even more complicated, now when your loved one’s abilities are declining is when they need your respect and patience the most.

The key is not to focus so much on their behavior now, but who they have been throughout their life and what their contribution to the world has been. Here are some tips for cultivating a more positive mindset.

  • Remember that the world you experience is not the same one that they’re experiencing. Try to join them in their world. If dad seems to believe it’s 1943 again, follow him there. There’s no harm in indulging him for a few minutes, and it will help you better understand how he’s feeling.
  • Don’t worry so much about perfect results. If Aunt Judy forgets that she’s already put on her lipstick or has been forgetting to water her plants, don’t fixate on it. Instead, just try to enjoy doing things and spending time together. It won’t kill either of you if you help her apply that third coat of fire-engine red. At least she’s having a good time!
  • Don’t ask them to do too much. That’s just setting you both up for disappointment, and your loved one will likely become upset and overwhelmed. Give them something simple to do. Don’t go overboard with this, though, as treating your loved one like a child also won’t help.
  • Let them do the things they are able to do. For example, mom may no longer be able to safely help you cut up vegetables for dinner, but maybe she can still assemble the salad once all the ingredients are ready. Let them have accomplishments, even if they’re small, and get them involved in everyday tasks.
  • Don’t rush to get things done or to get to a particular place. Take the time to talk to your loved one and find out how they’re doing. This will go a long way towards helping them feel honored.

Finally, the way to foster respect for your loved one may not require you focus on them so much as you focus on yourself. Be patient and try to manage your own stress. By taking care of yourself, you in turn will become a better caretaker.