Words by Tess Becker
Losing a loved one is never easy; neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia can make that process even harder. The diseases, particularly the umbrella of dementia, is marked by a “progressive or persistent loss of intellectual functioning,” usually manifesting in memory loss, a loss in abstract thinking, and often noticeable personality change.
In many cases this change can be incredibly painful, feeling like you’re beginning to lose your loved one before you lose them, but there are things we can do to help.
How can you help a loved one with dementia?
Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not a normal part of aging. Brain diseases that affect functioning are the primary cause of the syndrome, which affects most aspects of cognitive function.
One way to begin supporting loved ones with dementia is by learning how to communicate with them.
This is important for them because cognitive functioning is breaking down communication and just vocalizing their needs becomes harder than it was before.
A large part of communicating with someone who has dementia is through setting a positive mood for the interaction. People with dementia often struggle internally, so finding a way to make their surroundings as pleasant as possible can go a long way.
It's important to keep communication as simple as possible by breaking down topics into digestible chunks. This can make a world of difference and ensure you won't worsen any emotional strain they're under.
“Someone recently diagnosed with dementia is likely to experience a range of emotions,” the Alzheimer’s Society writes.
“These may include grief, loss, anger, shock, fear, disbelief and even relief. Sometimes people experience positive reactions when they receive a diagnosis of dementia. They can feel relieved to know what is wrong or be glad to be able to plan ahead.”
Establishing that plan and routine is one of the best means for a caretaker to support someone with dementia, keeping their mind active without overloading it.
Another brilliant way to communicate effectively with loved ones experiencing dementia, is through games such as ho-dee-ay, that are designed for people with cognitive issues.
Above all, approach every interaction with compassion and empathy. That way you can help your loved ones continue to live as happily as possible.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Alzheimer's Society. The UK's largest charity offering support and campaigning to improve the lives of people with dementia. Find out more.
Dementia UK. A source of support and information for people with dementia and their families. Support them here.
Alzheimer's Research UK. The UK's main charity funding research into treatments for Alzheimer's. Discover more.