How to Communicate With Someone in A Dementia Care Community

What to say to someone who has dementia

Loving someone with dementia can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. When someone with dementia begins to decline or show signs of significant cognitive changes, it may be time to start considering moving them into a dementia care community. Whether you are looking for a community that’s an appropriate match, or your loved one is already living in a community, there are numerous challenges that will arise throughout this journey.When Someone You Know is Living in a Dementia Care Community” is a comprehensive guide for anyone involved in this process.

Most people struggle with knowing what to say or do when someone you know is living in a dementia care facility.. Many family caregivers experience guilt or become lost in the maze of long-term care communities. It’s difficult to know where to begin. The more educated you are on dementia, the easier it will be to cope and to experience some of the moments of joy and light-heartedness that can only come from people with dementia.

“People with dementia see the world in a different way. They live in the moment more than anyone else can.” , Rachael Wonderlin

With the proper tools and a fundamental understanding of dementia, this difficult process can be a lot easierWhile dementia can be extremely distressing, it can also bring many unexpected rewards. People suffering from dementia offer unique insight and wisdom. They truly bring new meaning to the phrase “dance like no one is watching.”

About the Author

The book When Someone You Know is Living in a Dementia Care Communityis an easy to understand, a relatable guide for anyone with someone in their life who is experiencing dementia. The author, Rachael Wonderlin, is a gerontologist, blogger, community designer, and dementia care expert. She holds a Master’s Degree in Gerontology from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has been working in dementia care homes since 2005. She is passionate about helping people understand dementia. She started documenting her experiences in her blog, Dementia by Day in 2014.

Wonderlin became inspired to write the book after realizing that there were very few resources available about moving a loved one into a community. The book is brought to life by the author’s stories of the many fascinating experiences and daily challenges of memory care. The stories are based on real encounters and highlight common scenarios that occur in the world of dementia care.

“There are two things I really want people to come away from my book with. The first thing is that I want readers to be able to explain what dementia is to people that they engage with. The second thing is that I want readers to understand and utilize the concept of “embracing someone’s reality,” which is really what my book is centered around. Embracing someone’s reality means that you get into their world instead of trying to drag them into ours.” – Rachael Wonderlin

The book addresses many common dementia care issues and provides guidance and solutions for anyone involved in the life of a person with dementia. Regardless of the type or stage of dementia, loved ones will have many questions throughout the process.

  • What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?
  • Why does Dad think we are stealing from him?
  • How can I get Mom to use the restroom?
  • Why does he become so aggressive in the evening?
  • How do I know a care community actually provides quality care?
  • What do I say when my loved one keeps asking to go home?
  • How can I enrich the life of someone with Dementia?

When Someone You Know is Living in a Dementia Care Community” provides answers to these questions and much more. The author addresses many dementia care concerns and provides information to help the reader understand these common issues.

Finding a community

When searching for a care community, it’s imperative to find one that meets the individual’s unique needs in order for them to flourish. The best way to approach this is to be prepared with the right questions when touring communities.Have a thorough understanding of the person’s specific needs and preferences. Wonderlin provides direction for asking the right questions, explains what a quality care community looks like, and why this is such an important decision to keep the individual healthy and safe.

“People with dementia have the opportunity to live out happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives in care communities. “ – Rachael Wonderlin

Many people struggle with guilt when faced with the prospect of moving a family member or loved one into a community. Lots of family members are unpaid, full-time caregivers on top of their regular jobs. This can cause a lot of strain on both parties, and the relationship can suffer. Because of all the hazards that exist in most homes, and the tendency to wander, most people with mid to later stage dementias need to be in a secured community for safety reasons.  It’s important to understand that moving someone into a proper care community may be the best decision. Living in a community gives the person an opportunity at the quality of life and safety that they may no longer have at home. The author explains how this move can actually give the person and the relationship the opportunity to blossom.

“Recognize that taking your family member or friend to a care community is not neglecting him; in fact, it will probably improve your relationship with him.” – Rachael Wonderlin

Activities & Life Enrichment

No matter what stage of dementia a person is in, it is crucial to provide them with meaningful activities and productive tasks. It is a fundamental human need to feel useful and valued. This is why activities and life-enrichment programs play a huge role in a person’s quality of life. Talking to the Activity director about the types of programs offered can help you get an idea of how well the community engages their residents.

“Residents experience more agitation, anxiety, and depression when they are not actively engaged—and this takes a toll on them physically. When a community fails to provide meaningful activities, outings, and entertainment, residents take more medication, sundown more, and sleep constantly. A place that offers activities provides—without a doubt—a better life for its residents.”, Rachael Wonderlin

Getting to know the administrators and caregivers, and spending time observing the community throughout the day is the best way to determine what kind of environment it is, and if it’s a place where your loved one will thrive.

Dementia-related behaviors

Even after someone with dementia has transitioned into their new home, many challenges may continue to surface. Some of these can include refusing care, accusing staff of stealing from them, becoming combative, or attempting to leave the community.These are all scenarios in which effective communication strategies will help result in a better outcome.

The right tone of voice, body language and approach can make a world of difference when trying to successfully communicate with the individual.

Dementia related behaviors are one of the most difficult parts of the disease. When these behaviors occur, it is usually because of an unmet need.It’s important to become a “dementia detective,” to search for answers in what may be causing the behavior. Does the person have a Urinary Tract Infection? Are they hungry? Are they in pain? Are they feeling afraid or lonely? “When Someone You Know is Living in a Dementia Care Community” provides the reader with effective strategies for coping with dementia-related behaviors, how to redirect, distract, and communicate in order to have successful interactions with someone with dementia.

Embrace their reality

The most effective tool when it comes to communicating with someone with dementia is to embrace his or her reality. Wonderlin explores this concept several times throughout the book. She provides perspective into their reality, and explains how embracing their reality will lead to the most effective outcomes. If we try to reorient the person into the “real world,” it will result in needless suffering and distress, and even can trigger dementia-related behaviors.

“Think about embracing someone’s reality as accepting the world in which she lives instead of the world in which you live. Trying to drag someone with dementia back into our world is unfair.” – Rachael Wonderlin

Wonderlin helps the reader understand why the truth is not always the best option for those who no longer understand it.If we can let go of our need to try to reorient the person to our reality, we accept and love them as they are now. In some cases, their new reality may actually be more pleasant than ours.

“People with dementia live in a different world than we do—a world with the possibility of being a much happier place than the real world. Instead of being 90 years old and riddled with physical ailments, a woman with dementia believes that she is 25 and still in the prime of her life.” – Rachael Wonderlin

People living with dementia still have the opportunity to experience joy, express themselves, and lead meaningful lives in care communities.

If we are able to keep an open mind, and open heart, and above all a willingness to understand and enter their reality, we can make the journey of dementia easier for everyone involved. When we do this, we are able to overcome challenges and celebrate all the moments of joy. People with dementia have a lot to teach us. After all, they are experts in living in the moment.

Mark Your Calendar and Join Rachael Wonderlin – An Online Webinar

Rachael Wonderlin will be our guest speaker at our upcoming webinar on May 23rd, “How to Communicate wth Someone Who Has Dementia”.  Please join us for this free event.