Dementia and Resistance to Care

Often I am asked, “What can I do when my loved one with dementia won’t allow me to provide the care that is needed?”

This can be a very challenging issue for many care providers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, whether you are a family member or a professional.  It can leave one frustrated, anxious, upset and even feeling inadequate.  Remember this, you are doing the best you can with a perplexing and demanding disease. Whether the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, there is never an easy, one-size fits all answer.

Here are a few tips to try when you are met with resistance:

  • If the individual is safe, walk away for a few minutes giving them time and space.
  • Reproach in a new, enthusiastic manner each time.
  • Try a different approach. Don’t ask if they want to do something, this gives the opportunity to say “no.” Instead, invite and ask them for their help.
  • Options are always nice. “Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue one?” and show them with cues to go with your words. Both answers lead to performing the activity.
  • Perform something enjoyable before a task the individual may not desire, helping to put them in a better frame of mind.
  • Always break the task into small, simple steps. If something appears overwhelming or difficult, it is easier for the person to say no!
  • Ensure the environment is conducive for success. Check for appropriate lighting, temperature, noise levels…is it comfortable for the person you are serving?
  • Offer an incentive for after the task is complete. Whether it is a special treat like cheese and crackers or an activity they enjoy, such as listening to a favorite entertainer, be sure they know it is waiting for them once they’re finished.
  • Focus on the person, not the task.
  • Make it a fun experience together. Sing during bath time, tell jokes when dressing, or share a story while using the bathroom.
  • Allow the person to assist as much as possible to foster feelings of independence and helpfulness.
  • Simply say, “I’m sorry.” An apology can validate someone’s feelings.

Realize that the individual is living in a world that no longer makes sense. They may be scared. With the decrease in communication skills the person may not be connecting your words with what they mean. Lack of understanding exactly what is expected can cause someone to feel that they may be humiliated. Rather than go through all that, it is easier for the person with dementia to just say no!

Remember, they are not doing it on purpose and it’s not their fault. It is the disease.

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