Having dementia is very stressful and the symptoms themselves are made much worse if environmental stress is added to the mix. Here are three ideas for keeping things calm at home when someone you know has dementia.
1. Cut out noise that is not needed
It has been said that noise is as disabling for a person with dementia as a staircase is for a person in a wheelchair. Dementia can make it hard to tell the difference between noise and sound. Noise is the racket that goes on around us all the time; cars on the road outside, clattering of dishes, rumble of air conditioning, distance noise from a radio, creaking pipes. None of it means anything but it is there and we screen it out. Sound is the thing that you need to hear. It is the voice of someone talking to you, or the story on the radio, or the music you have put on because you want to listen.
People with new hearing aids say that they find the background noise intruding on the sounds they want to hear and people with dementia describe the same problem where they find it hard to concentrate on what matters.
So get rid of unnecessary noise in the house.
2. Use the right music to get the right atmosphere
It is very common for people to find music soothing. A playlist that includes all your favourite tracks from the past, whether classical, jazz or pop is a great comfort. One problem is when you have to share someone else’s musical taste. You sometimes hear this in care homes, where everyone is subjected to tunes from a particular decade in the last century, such as the forties, as if that is the time that everyone in the room remembers.
If you have access to headphones you can make sure that the person only hears what they really enjoy most.
Start your own play list now!
3. Don’t argue with a person who has dementia
It is very common for people with dementia to say and do “the wrong thing”. Sometimes that gets them into danger, for example if they make a misjudgement about giving money to a strange workman, or if they step into danger on a road. In those cases you probably have to act. But most of the time it does not matter that what they say is wrong.
The old lady might say, “I work in the bakers, “ when she has been retired for twenty-five years. There is no benefit from correcting her.Use her fact as a conversation starter.Talk about what sorts of cakes and bread are for sale and when the busy times are. If you emphasise that she has made a mistake you only make her feel bad and she is no less likely to make that same mistake again.
If she says "That Terry Wogan was here yesterday,” understand that she probably saw an image of him on the TV at some point, and she likes him. Don’t make her feel foolish by telling her that it is unlikely and that he is dead. Ask her what he was talking about and whether he was funny.
Keeping the noise down and avoiding arguments are simple ways of helping to keep life less stressful. There are more ideas on this in other blogs on this site and in Dementia the One Stop Guide