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Distraction techniques

If
the person you care for has a problem with memory loss (dementia), you may find
that he or she gets agitated about things that don’t make sense. Your
long-retired dad, for instance, may wake up in the mornings and insist, “I
have to go to work!” It can be confusing for you. And frustrating!

Disregarding
these comments will only make your relative more determined. And it’s pointless
to try to reason. The disease has robbed that ability. Instead, spend some time
connecting with your loved one in “their reality,” and then distract
them.

Compose
yourself.

Your body language, face, and tone of voice speak volumes. People with dementia
still perceive respect versus dismissal. If you need time to calm yourself,
make an excuse to get something from the car or to go to the bathroom, so you
can return refreshed.

Validate
their concern.
“Gosh, Dad, I see you are ready to go. I wish I had your
enthusiasm about work! Is
there something special at work today?” By joining in their emotional reality, you are not telling
them they are wrong. They feel reassured you understand.

Distract. Engage them in a fond memory of
something related. “Remember your first client back when the business was
new? What was it they had you do?” As you reminisce, consider walking
together into another room to shift their attention. Once in the other room,
draw on their forgetfulness and eventually offer an alternative activity:
“I’m hungry. Let’s have breakfast” or “Oh look at that messy
walkway! Would you sweep it? That would really help.”

Reflect. If your relative obsesses on things
that don’t make sense, look for triggers or the underlying meaning. If Dad
associates morning with time to go to work, have a task for him to do that
addresses that need—in this case, to feel productive.

Does your loved one get agitated often?
It can be very wearing when a relative gets stuck, especially about things that aren’t real to us. We at Debra Levy Eldercare Associates have a lot of experience with dementia. As the Metro DC experts in family caregiving, we can help you learn validation and distraction techniques. Give us a call at 301-593-5285. Let’s start the conversation.