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5 Compassionate Ways to Distract a Loved One Living with Dementia

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Most people associate dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s with memory loss and cognitive decline. But individuals with dementia may also have behavioral issues that might include sudden anger and other unexpected mood changes. If you’re a caregiver for a senior loved one with dementia, these outbursts can be understandably unsettling and, at times, frustrating. Instead of instinctively reacting, refocus and keep the following distraction techniques in mind.

1. Change Activities

Some older adults with dementia “act out” because they’re tired of doing a certain activity and they can’t clearly articulate their boredom. If this appears to be the case with your loved one, switch to another activity you know he or she enjoys. Activities involving physical movement often make it easier for seniors with dementia to refocus their attention.

On the other hand, if your loved one starts to act out while engaged in a physical activity, it could mean he or she is getting tired. If you suspect this may be the case, switch to more passive, less physically demanding activities, such as reading, helping with meal preparation, or working on arts and crafts projects.

Dementia can be challenging for seniors to manage, but they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional dementia care. Scottsdale seniors can benefit greatly from the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program designed to promote cognitive health and delay the onset of dementia. CTM is included at no additional charge with any of the in-home care plans provided by Home Care Assistance.

2. Use Music

According to a study referenced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), music can have a relaxing effect on older adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Additional research supports these findings. Use this fact to your advantage by getting your loved one involved with some type of music-related activity if he or she is becoming anxious or irritable. You might do this by:

• Singing a fun, silly song together
• Putting on your loved one’s favorite type of music softly in the background
• Inviting your loved one to create his or her own rhythm with a simple musical instrument such as a tambourine
• Putting on a movie that has singing or music you know your loved one enjoys

3. Try Humor

Humor can be a great distraction technique for caregivers looking after loved ones with dementia. If you notice things are getting tense for both of you, lighten the mood by incorporating humor into the situation. Possible ways to do this include:

• Sharing funny family stories
• Telling appropriate jokes
• Showing your loved one funny video clips on YouTube

The cognitive challenges that accompany dementia often leave aging adults unable to manage everyday tasks, which puts their safety and health at risk. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of homecare families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

4. Ask Your Loved One for Help

Seniors with dementia sometimes act out because they feel like they aren’t needed or doing anything productive. This may be especially true if you’ve gotten into the habit of automatically doing everything for your loved one. Instead, ask your loved one to help you so he or she will have something else to focus on. If you’re doing laundry, you might ask him or her to fold socks or towels. Whatever it is you ask for help with, remember to:

• Keep the task simple
• Be close by in case your loved one needs some assistance
• Thank your loved one and say how much you value his or her assistance
• Ask if your loved one would like to help you with something else after he or she has finished instead of just providing another task

5. Ignore the Behavior

This technique may work best if your loved one is only having mild behavioral issues. What you do is simply ignore the behavior and continue with the task at hand or the activity you’re helping your loved one participate in. This approach to handling behavioral issues gives seniors with dementia a chance to naturally calm down and regain their focus at their own pace. 

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a challenging task for anyone. The responsibilities can sometimes feel overwhelming, but help is available. Seniors can face a variety of age-related challenges. Though some families choose to take on the caregiving duties, there may come a time when they need a trusted Scottsdale elder care provider. Families sometimes need respite from their duties so they can focus on their other responsibilities, and some seniors need around-the-clock assistance that their families are not able to provide. Home Care Assistance is here to help. Call us at 480.448.6215 today to talk to one of our compassionate Care Managers about our high-quality home care services.