How to Help Prevent Frustration Among Loved Ones With Dementia

Posted on Sep 30, 2021

tired elderly indian woman

In our last article entitled How to Manage Frustration Among Loved Ones With Dementia, we discussed how to respond to a moment of anger or fear experienced by a loved one realizing that they are experiencing symptoms of their dementia. In this piece, we’re going to look at how simple, tactful actions on your part can help limit the frequency of negative experiences. 

Prevention Requires Understanding

Before you can aim to prevent moments of frustration experienced by a loved one with dementia, you must understand which experiences may trigger frustration. For example, noticing a frustration with activities that require dexterity, such as tying shoes or cutting up food, should warrant your consideration for an environmental shift. A lagging memory may also motivate you to tactfully limit such episodes of mental stress. 

Discretion in Prevention

Though you should absolutely respond to an experience that triggers genuine frustration, not all difficult situations may trigger frustration. In fact, if you swoop in prematurely to remedy a situation that has not yet triggered frustration, though you feel you are preventing frustration, you may actually be inciting it. 

An example of this may be speaking for a loved one at the first sign of mental lapse or even not giving them the opportunity to answer a question at all. Though not recalling the details of a story or someone’s name can be frustrating, give them a few moments to attempt to recall such details before lending your assistance. Speaking for them before they appear to be frustrated may make them feel as though you doubt their abilities, which may be construed as disrespect.

Tact = Dignity

When aiming to prevent moments of frustration experienced by a loved one with dementia, it is essential to be both tactful and subtle to respect their dignity. Calling attention to their inabilities or treating them differently from others in an overt fashion may even cause them to feel embarrassed. 

Not Calling Attention to Their Disability Among Others

One example of discreetly preventing frustration may exist at the dinner table. Though you may feel you are being helpful and preventing frustration by cutting up their food, doing so for them and no one else may cause them to feel embarrassed. Instead, if you’ve observed that cutting such food will likely be frustrating for them, consider cutting up all of the food for all guests into edible, fork-ready sizes in the preparation process without explaining why. 

Tactful Changes in Environment

Another example displaying such tact may include self-care in the form of shoes. If you notice that a loved one is struggling to tie their shoes, an obvious remedy would be buying them velcro or slip-on shoes. The key aspect of this action is discretion. Do not say you did so because you noticed that they struggle to tie their shoes. Instead, frame the new shoes as a gift, maybe that you thought the color would complement their handbag or some other kind-yet-benign reason. 

Gauge How Your Prevention Techniques Are Received

Whether you’re responding to moments of frustration or aiming to tactfully prevent frustrating experiences, it is important to carefully gauge how your assistance is received. One of the best responses is little response at all—not detecting the subtle changes to their environment while enjoying their benefit. If you feel that your preventative measures are being negatively received by your loved one with dementia, you may consider scaling some of your measures back or strategize how to make them less overt. 

Caring for your loved one with dementia is frequently a balancing act in providing appropriate care while respecting their dignity. Doing so effectively will allow you to meet their needs while preventing frustrating experiences.

Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one is looking for professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, look no further than your friends at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

How to Manage Frustration Among Loved Ones With Mild Dementia

Posted on Sep 30, 2021

frustrated older woman in sweater by window

Early-stage dementia can be frustrating and scary for anyone. 

Unlike patients in which round-the-clock assistance is typically required and disability may not be fully realized by the patient, those with mild dementia have the unfortunate experience of witnessing their own symptoms in a more intimate way. This new realization that they may not be able to process thoughts or perform certain activities that they once could may be especially troubling. However, there are several ways that you can soften the emotional burden they experience. 

In this piece, we’re going to look at how to best respond to frustrating moments experienced by loved ones with early-stage dementia.

Responding to Dementia-Induced Frustration

Frustration and fear are common emotions among those actively experiencing the symptoms of dementia. The inability to recall a detail or perform an ordinary task may be deeply troubling. How you, a loved one, respond to this frustration can have a profound impact on their overall happiness. Here are a few ideas on how to most appropriately respond. 

Provide Comfort

Experiencing the initial stages of dementia can feel isolating. When you notice they are troubled by the realization of their new limitations, give them comfort and support. Tell them that it’s ok, that you’re there for them, and that you are a team. 

Normalize or Rationalize Limitations

Some mental or physical tasks may be frustrating for those with dementia that aren’t especially easy for everyone. When a loved one struggles, provide a bit of empathy. Even a casual, “Man, the kids are growing up so fast—I can hardly put names with their faces either!” or “I could barely open that jar myself!” 

Lighten Frustrations with a Joke

This technique requires a deep understanding of a loved one’s personality, but sometimes a little humor can greatly soften a frustrating situation. Tying into normalizing or rationalizing their symptoms, consider peppering it with a little joke. 

Playing Down by Playing Off

Consider playing down brief forgetfulness by playing off of an event of forgetfulness they experienced as an able-minded person or a silly excuse for one’s inability to perform a particular task.

  • “You always did confuse me with my sister, didn’t you? Sometimes my kids call their aunt ‘mom’ as well!”
  • “I think you’re just trying to get out of doing some chores, silly lady!” 

Comfort With Your Honesty

At times, your loved one with dementia won’t want to hear jokes, they won’t buy your rationalizations, and they won’t want to be coddled by your comfort. For these types of loved ones with whom you have a close bond, hearing the truth from you can help ease their frustration. When they can see through the candy-coating, they may respect your ability to discuss the gorilla in the room—that this is hard and they need help. 

In these moments, being truly honest may be the best therapy. Your ability to be honest with them will show how deeply you respect them. This respect will very likely be reciprocated and the trust that follows that respect can provide comfort. 

In our next article entitled How to Help Prevent Frustration Among Loved Ones With Dementia, we’ll discuss how to hopefully prevent frustration among your loved ones experiencing the symptoms of progressing dementia. 

Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one is looking for professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area, look no further than your friends at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Responding to Tricky Questions with Compassion: Dementia Patient Care

Posted on Aug 31, 2021

speaking with a loved one with dementia

If you’re a caretaker of a loved one with dementia, you know that their confusion typically results in many different questions. The more disoriented they may become, the more questions they may ask. They may ask about a job they haven’t worked in years. They might ask about a home that they were forced to move out of due to their condition. They may even ask about a spouse or other loved one who has been deceased for decades. 

Reasoning with Dementia Patients Rarely Works

As logical people, we’re conditioned to want to answer questions truthfully. When it comes to caring for loved ones with dementia, you’ll quickly realize that they’re rarely thinking logically when it pertains to the specifics of their immediate surroundings. They may ask where their cat is—though they themselves had to take the cat to be put to sleep 20 years ago. If you were to answer them logically and thus truthfully, you would likely upset them very much. The next day, they may ask about the cat once again—and thus force you to repeat the painful and confusing truth all over again. 

Compassionate Responses Rather Than Truthful Answers

So, how do you respond to tricky questions when the truth would only upset your loved ones with dementia? By responding with a compassionate response rather than a truthful one. It is also helpful to pivot the subject to a new activity to take their mind off such questions.   

The following are a few examples: 

Your mother asks about her cat Mittens who has been gone a long time.

  • Truthful answer: “Mittens had to be put down over 20 years ago, Mom.”
  • Compassionate response: “Mitten is sleeping. Let’s go for a walk.”

Your father wants to go home, though he’s had to move in with you due to his condition. 

  • Truthful answer: Dad, you live with me now. We sold your house to the McKinneys. 
  • Compassionate response: That’s very far away. I made up a room for you at my house and I’m making dinner for us tonight. 

Your husband wakes up in a panic because he thinks he’s late for work, even though he’s been retired for 15 years. 

  • Truthful answer: You haven’t worked at that job for 15 years. You’re retired. 
  • Compassionate response: You’re off work today. Would you like to help me with this puzzle? 

For most tricky questions for which a truthful answer would only result in upsetting your loved one with dementia, there are likely an array of compassionate responses you can employ. It’s likely worthwhile for you to have a few such responses at the ready so that you can avoid confusing or upsetting experiences. It’s also helpful to keep your compassionate responses consistent in case they recall what you've said in the past.

Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one is looking for professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, look no further than your friends at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Don’t Feel Guilty: Identifying & Remedying Caretaker Guilt

Posted on Aug 31, 2021

man stressed out

Are you experiencing caretaker’s guilt or burnout?

As the caretaker of a loved one in need—whether this is a spouse with dementia or a parent with a serious condition, you likely feel as though the weight of their entire world is on your shoulders. While there is some truth to the weight of this, you may be feeling a secondary weight—a self-imposed weight of unnecessary guilt over experiencing pleasure for yourself during this time.

This may be a state unofficially known as caretaker guilt. This type of guilt is normal, but when left unchecked, can result in caretaker burnout. Identifying unnecessary guilt is very important.

Have you found yourself...

  • Turning down friendly invitations to enjoyable events you realistically could attend with the right logistics?
  • Taking up friends or family on these invitations but not being present during these moments because you’re too wrapped up in guilt over your loved one not being able to have similar getaways?
  • Ruminating about all the various factors that could go wrong in the care of your loved one rather than what actually is occurring on a daily basis?
  • Not giving yourself breaks or restorative getaways from caretaking because you feel guilty about your loved one not receiving such breaks or getaways from their condition?

If this sounds like you, take a minute to consider the following: 

In the grand scheme of your loved one’s care, is your refusal to enjoy pleasurable experiences helping or hurting your ability to provide quality care? 

If you’re truly honest with yourself, you’re able to see that being engrossed in guilt, rumination, and round-the-clock focus is more of a recipe for burnout than a lapse in care. In fact, if anything, caretaker burnout should be a greater concern than any imagined unfortunate event. 

How to Alleviate Caretaker Guilt & Burnout

Turn Off Your Automatic “No, I Can’t” Mindset

As the caretaker of someone with a serious condition, you’ve likely turned your personal “We’re Open” sign to permanently “Sorry, We’re Closed” when it comes to invites to outings you would enjoy. While it’s true that you likely have to turn down the majority of invitations, “no” shouldn’t be your default reply.

  • Take a moment to consider if you’re reflexively saying “no” or if you could actually make it work. 
  • Weigh the cost-benefit analysis of arranging a few hours of relief from a nearby sibling or close friend. (Spoiler alert: it’s worth it.)
  • Don’t assume that you’re burdening others by requesting relief. You may even be surprised by how many people care about you and would love to help.  

Arrange a Regular Getaway

By now (and likely even before reading this article), you probably understand that your existing or impending burnout is not helping anyone—not your loved one, not your family, and especially not you. And you’re probably already coming up with excuses for not taking a break:

  • I don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding someone to relieve me. 
  • I feel selfish asking someone else to give me a break. 
  • I don’t want to subject my loved one to the idea of me randomly leaving to get a break.

It may be true that getting someone to tend to the needs of this loved one at a moment’s notice would be hard on everyone involved. However, with a little planning and explanation, you can generate the initial momentum necessary for you to have a regularly occurring time to recharge. 

  • Step 1: Realize that you need periodic breaks or getaways from your role as caretaker—not because you’re lazy or callous but because you’re human. You likely already realize the need for these breaks or getaways. 
  • Step 2: Reach out to your close friends and loved ones—preferably individuals familiar with your situation—to inquire about who might be able to relieve you for a few hours a week so you can recharge. This may be as simple as sending a group text message to a handful of close friends and family members or even asking a close friend to call around for you. You may be pleasantly surprised by how many people offer their help! 
  • Step 3: Plan your regular getaways. It’s best to choose the same times and days of the week so that it doesn’t take anyone by surprise. These getaways don’t have to be anything extravagant—even just coffee at a friend’s house, a trip to the library, to catch a movie, or a bite to eat at a local café. It’s best if these getaways are truly away from the house or care center—otherwise, you’ll never fully allow yourself to separate your mind and recharge. 

Help is Closer Than You Think

It's one thing to recognize that caretaker burnout is detrimental to everyone involved—doing something about it is something else. As we’ve mentioned before, you’re not selfish for wanting to periodically treat yourself. Taking the appropriate time to care for yourself will make you a better caretaker for your loved one. 

Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one are looking for professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, look no further than your friends at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Addressing Repeated Questions from Loved Ones With Dementia [4 Techniques]

Posted on Jul 07, 2021

They’re not just trying to annoy you. 

If you have a loved one with dementia, you’re likely very accustomed to being asked the same question several times a day. Though you do your best to answer it every time, their condition means they not only don’t remember your answer but likely don’t remember asking. Though this repetition can be frustrating, the following are four helpful ways to address a loved one with dementia asking the same questions over and over. 

1. Firstly, the most obvious approach — just answer it. 

You may find yourself frustrated with hearing and answering the same question over and over. When this takes place with a loved one with dementia, one of the easiest ways to handle seemingly harmless questions are is to simply answer them as though you also do not remember hearing such questions before. Remember — it is the condition that is causing them to forget your answers. Answering the same questions several times a day is likely the new normal. Coming to terms with this may save you a lot of grief. 

2.  A distraction to a suitable activity may be helpful. 

Some questions can be quickly and easily answered. Other questions may result in complicated or disappointing answers that will be quickly forgotten — though the negative emotions from such answers may remain. To limit having to answer such questions, distracting your loved one from the question with a positive activity may be helpful. Some caregivers suggest a fun or safe activity such as a game or simple craft project. Others have reported that using a bit of humor can distract your loved one from their intention for asking such questions. Still, more caregivers have suggested asking the loved one if they would like to listen to some of their favorite music. These activities have the advantage of not only deflecting repetitious or anxious questions but also take the patient’s mind off any anxieties that inspired such questions — such as why they can’t drive their car or go out by themselves. 

3. Direct their attention to a visual cue that answers their question. 

Just because someone with dementia asks the same question does not mean that it cannot be answered in a meaningful way. One way to answer a question is by diverting its answer to a visual cue. If a loved one with dementia keeps asking about the date or the day’s activities, consider hanging an easily visible calendar on the wall that lists their scheduled activities. Not only will a calendar answer their questions in a satisfying way, but they may also grow conditioned to consult the calendar for such questions instead of repeatedly asking you.

4. Identify and remove what is triggering the question. 

Very few dementia patients will suddenly shift behavior without a sufficient cue. The difficulty on behalf of caregivers is identifying which cues will trigger which behaviors — including the asking of repetitious questions. For instance, you may notice a loved one asking about a certain family member every time they go to the bathroom. Walking the same path, you may discover that they walk past a photo of this family member on their way back from using the bathroom. By moving the photograph or other cue to a location in the home with less regular traffic, you may reduce the repetition of such questions. 

Remember — if you are frustrated, they are confused. 

Despite which of these techniques you attempt to remedy the repetitious questions, remember that your loved one with dementia wouldn’t be asking if they weren’t genuinely confused. Keeping this in mind can greatly decrease any frustration you feel after being asked the same question for the third, fourth, or even twentieth time in a row. 

Palliative care and hospice services in the Greater Tulsa area.

When the time comes for requiring nurturing hospice and palliative care for your loved one, know that you and your family can trust the professional from Cura HPC. We treat every patient as we’d treat our own family — with compassion and the utmost care. 

Learn more about Cura HPC today.