Communication Tips


We all need people in our lives. We all need to feel a connection and be a part of something. This need to belong does not go away when someone has dementia. Recently, we’ve been talking a lot about caregiver isolation with our #iCareforCaregivers campaign, but caregivers aren’t the only ones who are isolated. Often when someone has dementia, social circles shrink (and perhaps even disappear).

Why? Let’s be honest. It can be a bit awkward talking with a person who has dementia. You might not know what to talk about, or that person may say or do strange things. Also, it’s hard to see someone you love lose their abilities and memory.

But here’s the truth: it may be awkward and difficult, but that person needs you. Your friend or family member’s life will be fuller and better with you an active part of it. Those with dementia should still be involved in relational things. It’s important to include them in conversations and social events.

You may be thinking, I don’t know what to say to this person anymore. How do I interact? We’re here to help! Here are our best tips for communicating with someone who has dementia. If you have questions that aren’t addressed here, or you would like advice about a specific situation, please give us a call at 901.854.1200. We would be happy to help.

  • Limit distractions. It can be confusing for someone with dementia to participate in a conversation when there’s a bunch of stuff going on at the same time. Turn off the TV, put your cell phone away, and move to a quiet space. It’s best to be in a small group or one-on-one.
  • Set a good tone. Your attitude and body language convey a message just like your words do. Smile and make eye contact. Be kind and sincere, gentle but not demeaning. Talk to the person like an adult. Address him or her by name. Use humor when you can.
  • Be clear, and keep it simple. Slow your speech and use easy to understand language. If they don’t understand, repeat. If they still don’t understand, rephrase. Use visual prompts to help convey your message. If you need to, plan out a couple of conversation topics ahead of time. If your grandma likes to talk about the lake she lived by as a kid and making pumpkin pie with a special family recipe, you might bring pictures of the lake and the pie recipe with you to talk about those things.
  • Remind, don’t quiz. Don’t say: Do you remember when…? Who is in this picture? Who am I? What is my name? If your friend had a broken leg, you would never ask him to run a marathon with you. That’s what you’re doing when you quiz someone with dementia. They physically can’t remember. Also, how do you feel when people ask you questions you can’t answer? You feel bad about yourself. Help your loved one preserve dignity. Set that person up for success. Instead of quizzing, talk about times past. Say something like: That Christmas we went to the Grand Canyon was one of my favorite holidays.
  • Suggest, don’t correct. Instead of saying: “You don’t need to wear your heavy coat outside, it’s 85 degrees.” Say this: “Let’s go feel the weather outside and see if you think you need that coat.”
  • Avoid saying “No.” Offer alternatives. Instead of saying: “No, you can’t eat lunch, you just ate lunch 20 minutes ago.” Say this: “How about we get a little snack after we fold the laundry.”
  • Redirect. If the person gets agitated, overly worried, or stuck on a negative subject, acknowledge the feelings and then redirect. Here’s an example. You are visiting your friend in her home. She says: “The children are just being awful right now. They leave their things all over the house and are out all hours of the night. I just don’t know what to do about them.” You know your friend’s children aren’t teenagers anymore but are grown and live in a different city, but you don’t correct. You acknowledge the feeling and respond with reassurance: “That rebellious phase is tough isn’t it. I think we both went through one of those ourselves, but we turned out okay. Your children sure are lucky to have you as a mom. You’re a great mom.” Suggest an activity, steer the conversation in a more positive direction, or offer a new conversation topic.
  • Listen. It may take your friend or family member a while to respond. That’s okay! Take time to listen. If the words aren’t making sense, listen for the feeling behind them. Are they anxious or confused? Provide reassurance. Are they joking? Play along!
  • Be present. Even if the person can’t respond, keep talking. Your presence is a sign of love and care. Show your friend or family member that you care and that they still matter.


Caregiver Wish List


One struggle that we often hear from caregivers is that they feel alone and isolated. Caregivers say that family and friends no longer come around. One caregiver said, “When we go out to a family event or get together, it’s like we have a bubble around us, and no one wants to penetrate that bubble to come talk to either of us.”

Caregivers say that people will offer to help by saying the usual: “Let me know if you ever need anything.” “Let me know what I can do.” But it never gets past that. Caregivers say thanks but don’t know what to ask for in the moment. Often times, a well-meaning friend or family member doesn’t know what to offer, but they are willing to help if given a task.

Our advice to caregivers: Be specific.

Write out an actual wish list (just like you would write out a Christmas list). What are things you would like for someone to do for you and/or your loved one? The items on this list can free up time for you to have a break from some of your responsibilities or can give you a break financially for things you would otherwise be paying for.

Here’s some example wish list items to get you thinking:

  • Deliver a hot meal every other Tuesday
  • Make an extra casserole or a double batch of soup
  • $ for in-home care
  • $ for a day at Page Robbins
  • Take loved one to get a manicure while caregiver runs errands
  • Visit every other Saturday for a few hours
  • Call once a week to check in
  • Rake the yard
  • Invite loved one over to watch a football game one Saturday

Challenge Time: Be specific. Make out a wish list. Type it up. Write it out. Jot it down on a piece of scrap paper. Decorate it with glitter stars and doodles. Put it in your phone. Whatever works for you! The next time someone asks you how they can help, give them something specific from your list, or give them the whole list and have them pick.

Our advice to family, friends, and neighbors of caregivers: Ask for specifics, and listen.

Rather than: “Let me know if you need anything.” Ask: “What can I do to help you?” Then, listen. If they don’t have a response, encourage them to make a wish list. If the first time you ask, the caregiver says no help is needed, it’s okay to ask again later. Show the caregiver that you are sincere in your desire to help.

Some good questions to ask:

  • I made an extra batch of soup. When is a good time for me to drop it by?
  • Can I come over to help you with your honey-do list? Change light bulbs? Fix the leaky faucet? I’ve got free time every day around lunch time next week.
  • Can the kids and I come over and rake the yard this weekend? It will be a good family activity. We would love to help.

Challenge Time: Ask for specifics. Listen. Encourage your caregiver friend to make a wish list. Keep in mind, it can be hard to ask for help. Be ready to help where and when you can. Check out our recent blog post on 31 Ways to Care for Caregivers. It might give you ideas for ways you can support your caregiver friend.

This post is a part of our #iCareforCaregivers campaign. Want to learn more about #iCareforCaregivers and how you can join in? Check out the official webpage at pagerobbins.org/icareforcaregivers.


31 Ways to Care for Caregivers


To kick off our #iCareforCaregivers campaign, we’re sharing a list of 31 ways you can care for caregivers. Want to learn more about #iCareforCaregivers and how you can join in on the sharing and caring? Check out the official webpage at pagerobbins.org/icareforcaregivers.

There’s 31 days in October, so we encourage you to think of a caregiver you know and do one thing each day this month to show him or her you care. Make a caregiver’s day! Let’s reduce caregiver isolation and stress one good day at a time.

1. Smile
2. Give a hug
3. Say, “You’re a wonderful caregiver!”
4. Listen, don’t interrupt
5. Give them the benefit of the doubt
6. Mail a card just because
7. Call
8. Send a funny or encouraging text
9. Take a bouquet of flowers
10. Drop off a small treat at the door with no “from” on it
11. Go visit
12. Invite them over for a meal or football game
13. Invite them over just because
14. Have a normal conversation
15. Remember and recognize birthdays/anniversaries that their loved one might forget
16. Have coffee, muffins, and conversation one morning
17. Take them their favorite Sonic or Starbucks drink
18. Shop for groceries or pick up groceries that have been ordered online
19. Take them out to eat
20. Make a meal or an extra casserole
21. Stay with their loved one for an hour or so while they run errands, go to an appointment, attend worship, etc.
22. Pay for or be an in-home caregiver for the day
23. Help them remember and keep doctor/dentist appointments
24. Roll the garbage can to the street and roll it back when it’s been emptied
25. Offer to do some “honey-do’s,” like changing lightbulbs and air filters
26. Do housework or hire housekeeping help
27. Mow the yard or hire a yard service
28. Wash clothes
29. Put gas in the car
30. Take the car to have it washed and/or serviced
31. Ask specifically what the caregiver needs, and do it


Accepting the Diagnosis

No one expects to be a caregiver to a loved one with dementia. No one plans for life to turn out this way, just as your loved one never planned on having dementia. Maybe you had plans to enjoy retirement, to travel, visit family, and spend time with grandchildren. Perhaps you are still working and raising your own children, yet you are in the throes of caring for a loved one with dementia.

NO ONE plans for life to be this way, so it can be hard to accept your new reality when it happens. Accepting a diagnosis of dementia is not a simple, overnight process. It takes time.

Before you can begin the process of accepting a diagnosis, it is very important to get a clear diagnosis. If you take your mom to an appointment and the doctor says, “She has cancer,” you do not say thank you and walk out the door. You ask questions. What type of cancer? Will it spread? What is the recommended treatment? What are the side effects? What is the prognosis? You need and want more information. The same should be true with the diagnosis of dementia. If possible, it is important to get a clear diagnosis and to ask questions. What type of dementia? What stage? Are there medications that can help? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your loved one’s doctor can be an invaluable resource.

Accepting a diagnosis of dementia is ongoing. Once you have become accustomed to the new normal and how to deal with certain challenges, it suddenly changes. For example, in the past few months, your biggest challenge may have been your mom constantly wanting your attention, but now the challenge is that your mom is often uncooperative. You then have to accept the new normal, which could change again soon.

Individuals with dementia can no longer function as they once did, so you, as the caregiver, must learn to accept your loved one’s declining abilities and make adjustments. The harsh reality is that your relationship will change, and it cannot continue as it once was. Understanding and acceptance means you can have realistic expectations. With dementia, it is the caregiver that must change to suit his or her loved one. When a caregiver does not accept the new normal, it can lead to continual disappointment and anger and to wasted energy and a negative cycle of words and emotions.

So how do you accept your new normal? We asked family caregivers at Page Robbins for their best tips on accepting the changes and challenges that come along with a dementia diagnosis. These people are in your shoes. They get it. So we hope you’ll read these words and be encouraged, and we also hope you’ll put their advice to practice.

  • “Be patient.”
  • “Try to remember that your loved one is probably not doing ‘it’ to aggravate you.”
  • “Your loved one can’t help it. It is the disease.”
  • “Try not to snap at your loved one when you are frustrated. It only makes things worse.”
  • “There comes a point in time when you simply can’t use logic with your loved one anymore, so don’t try. It just leads to more frustration for both of you.”
  • “Constantly correcting the person is not good. Dementia is a separate reality. You can’t re-orient them – just as well as you know it is Sunday, your loved one thinks it is Tuesday. Why argue?”
  • “Give yourself permission to not be perfect. We all have bad days and mess up. We all make mistakes. Just because you are a caregiver does not mean that you should now be prefect.”
  • “Have a good doctor and enlist his or her help, especially for major changes such as switching to disposable briefs, taking away the keys, etc.”
  • “Well-meaning people will say things they feel are helpful , when in reality it’s things they really should have kept to themselves. That person is not walking in your shoes and most likely doesn’t know all there is to know about you and your loved one.”
  • “Keep your sense of humor. For God’s sake… it is OK to laugh!”
  • “Accept help when offered.”
  • “Learn the tricks. Build your tool kit (i.e. distraction, preferred family member, fiblets, keeping things simple, avoid arguments).”
  • “Take Care of yourself!”
  • “Being a caregiver isn’t rocket science… It’s much more difficult than that.”

If you’re looking for opportunities to connect with other caregivers, be sure to check out our caregiver support group opportunities. And feel free to call us to ask questions or seek guidance (901-854-1200). Even if your loved one lives hundreds of miles away and will never use our services, we’re happy to help.

If you’re having trouble accepting the diagnosis, our Starting Point Class for those with a loved one who has been recently diagnosed with dementia and for those who suspect their loved one might have dementia is Saturday, October 1 from 9 to 10 am at the Center. Please call to reserve your spot.

Vision and Dementia

Seeing and understanding our world is a multi-step process – our eyes take in an image, that image is then sent to our brains (along with information from the other senses), and then the brain processes the image using the information gathered and past experience to make sense of what is being seen. When someone has dementia, there is a breakdown in this process.

What can you do as a caregiver or friend of one with dementia?

First and foremost, it is imperative that those with dementia have regular vision screenings so that any issues with vision can be addressed and corrected as soon as possible. An impaired brain needs to receive the best information it can, and regular vision screenings will help ensure this occurs. If the person has glasses, be sure they are the correct prescription and lenses are clean. If glasses are constantly being misplaced, put them on a chain or keep an extra pair at the ready.

Here are additional things you can do to help your loved one:

  • Create contrast. Those with dementia have difficulty distinguishing objects of similar color. For example, a pale yellow plate on a white tablecloth may blend in. A brown handrail mounted on a brown wall or a white button on a light colored shirt can’t be seen. A dark mug with black coffee may look like an empty mug. It is best to use contrasting colors to highlight things you want your loved one to see. Put the black coffee in a light colored cup. If the wall is light brown, paint the handrail black. Instead of a light colored shirt with light buttons, choose a blue shirt with white buttons. Serve dinner on a white plate on a red tablecloth.
  • Put on your binoculars. An average young person can put his hands straight out to each side and see his fingertips using peripheral vision. As we age, peripheral vision naturally narrows, but with dementia, a person’s field of vision narrows drastically. Dementia care expert Teepa Snow uses the analogy of binoculars to explain this change in vision. Place your hands over your eyes like binoculars. You can’t see much – right? A limited field of vision can easily cause falls and other accidents. Keep this in mind when guiding your loved one through a room or assessing potential fall hazards. Also, when eating, your loved one may not be able to see part of the plate, so you may need to turn the plate so that the other food can be seen.
  • Keep in mind difficulties with depth perception. Changes in flooring can be confusing. A dark rug may look like a black hole, so the person will step around it or won’t walk over it for fear of falling into a bottomless pit. Consider moving the dark rug or switching it for a color similar to the flooring. When the flooring switches from carpet to tile, your loved one may think it is a step up/down. When walking with your loved one, verbally reassure him or her that the flooring is the same level. Your loved one may think the chair is close enough to sit, while really he or she is still far from the chair. Help guide your loved one to the seat.
  • Fill rooms with bright, direct light. As we age, we require brighter light to see. This is even truer for those with dementia. The brain can play tricks in poor lighting. Imagine sitting in your living room with the blinds open and curtains pulled back in the late afternoon. The sun begins to set and shadows start appearing. Those with dementia may think the coatrack in the corner is a person or the random misplaced shoe is cat on the living room floor. Close the blinds, pull the curtains, and ensure sufficient indoor lighting is available before the sun sets to help avoid extra confusion.
  • Eliminate unnecessary visual noise. An environment that is cluttered or filled with multiple, strong patterns can be confusing for the already confused brain. A cleaner and more simplified environment is ideal. Embrace spring cleaning. Enlist of the help of family, friends, or neighbors and declutter as much as possible.

If you have specific questions or concerns, our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack, is available to talk with you and answer questions (901.854.1200 or sheri@pagerobbins.org).


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  • November 23, 2016

    Communication Tips


    We all need people in our lives. We all need to feel a connection and be a part of something. This need to belong does not go away when someone has dementia. Recently, we’ve been talking a lot about caregiver isolation with our #iCareforCaregivers campaign, but caregivers aren’t the only ones who are isolated. Often when someone has dementia, social circles shrink (and perhaps even disappear).

    Why? Let’s be honest. It can be a bit awkward talking with a person who has dementia. You might not know what to talk about, or that person may say or do strange things. Also, it’s hard to see someone you love lose their abilities and memory.

    But here’s the truth: it may be awkward and difficult, but that person needs you. Your friend or family member’s life will be fuller and better with you an active part of it. Those with dementia should still be involved in relational things. It’s important to include them in conversations and social events.

    You may be thinking, I don’t know what to say to this person anymore. How do I interact? We’re here to help! Here are our best tips for communicating with someone who has dementia. If you have questions that aren’t addressed here, or you would like advice about a specific situation, please give us a call at 901.854.1200. We would be happy to help.

    • Limit distractions. It can be confusing for someone with dementia to participate in a conversation when there’s a bunch of stuff going on at the same time. Turn off the TV, put your cell phone away, and move to a quiet space. It’s best to be in a small group or one-on-one.
    • Set a good tone. Your attitude and body language convey a message just like your words do. Smile and make eye contact. Be kind and sincere, gentle but not demeaning. Talk to the person like an adult. Address him or her by name. Use humor when you can.
    • Be clear, and keep it simple. Slow your speech and use easy to understand language. If they don’t understand, repeat. If they still don’t understand, rephrase. Use visual prompts to help convey your message. If you need to, plan out a couple of conversation topics ahead of time. If your grandma likes to talk about the lake she lived by as a kid and making pumpkin pie with a special family recipe, you might bring pictures of the lake and the pie recipe with you to talk about those things.
    • Remind, don’t quiz. Don’t say: Do you remember when…? Who is in this picture? Who am I? What is my name? If your friend had a broken leg, you would never ask him to run a marathon with you. That’s what you’re doing when you quiz someone with dementia. They physically can’t remember. Also, how do you feel when people ask you questions you can’t answer? You feel bad about yourself. Help your loved one preserve dignity. Set that person up for success. Instead of quizzing, talk about times past. Say something like: That Christmas we went to the Grand Canyon was one of my favorite holidays.
    • Suggest, don’t correct. Instead of saying: “You don’t need to wear your heavy coat outside, it’s 85 degrees.” Say this: “Let’s go feel the weather outside and see if you think you need that coat.”
    • Avoid saying “No.” Offer alternatives. Instead of saying: “No, you can’t eat lunch, you just ate lunch 20 minutes ago.” Say this: “How about we get a little snack after we fold the laundry.”
    • Redirect. If the person gets agitated, overly worried, or stuck on a negative subject, acknowledge the feelings and then redirect. Here’s an example. You are visiting your friend in her home. She says: “The children are just being awful right now. They leave their things all over the house and are out all hours of the night. I just don’t know what to do about them.” You know your friend’s children aren’t teenagers anymore but are grown and live in a different city, but you don’t correct. You acknowledge the feeling and respond with reassurance: “That rebellious phase is tough isn’t it. I think we both went through one of those ourselves, but we turned out okay. Your children sure are lucky to have you as a mom. You’re a great mom.” Suggest an activity, steer the conversation in a more positive direction, or offer a new conversation topic.
    • Listen. It may take your friend or family member a while to respond. That’s okay! Take time to listen. If the words aren’t making sense, listen for the feeling behind them. Are they anxious or confused? Provide reassurance. Are they joking? Play along!
    • Be present. Even if the person can’t respond, keep talking. Your presence is a sign of love and care. Show your friend or family member that you care and that they still matter.


    October 14, 2016

    Caregiver Wish List


    One struggle that we often hear from caregivers is that they feel alone and isolated. Caregivers say that family and friends no longer come around. One caregiver said, “When we go out to a family event or get together, it’s like we have a bubble around us, and no one wants to penetrate that bubble to come talk to either of us.”

    Caregivers say that people will offer to help by saying the usual: “Let me know if you ever need anything.” “Let me know what I can do.” But it never gets past that. Caregivers say thanks but don’t know what to ask for in the moment. Often times, a well-meaning friend or family member doesn’t know what to offer, but they are willing to help if given a task.

    Our advice to caregivers: Be specific.

    Write out an actual wish list (just like you would write out a Christmas list). What are things you would like for someone to do for you and/or your loved one? The items on this list can free up time for you to have a break from some of your responsibilities or can give you a break financially for things you would otherwise be paying for.

    Here’s some example wish list items to get you thinking:

    • Deliver a hot meal every other Tuesday
    • Make an extra casserole or a double batch of soup
    • $ for in-home care
    • $ for a day at Page Robbins
    • Take loved one to get a manicure while caregiver runs errands
    • Visit every other Saturday for a few hours
    • Call once a week to check in
    • Rake the yard
    • Invite loved one over to watch a football game one Saturday

    Challenge Time: Be specific. Make out a wish list. Type it up. Write it out. Jot it down on a piece of scrap paper. Decorate it with glitter stars and doodles. Put it in your phone. Whatever works for you! The next time someone asks you how they can help, give them something specific from your list, or give them the whole list and have them pick.

    Our advice to family, friends, and neighbors of caregivers: Ask for specifics, and listen.

    Rather than: “Let me know if you need anything.” Ask: “What can I do to help you?” Then, listen. If they don’t have a response, encourage them to make a wish list. If the first time you ask, the caregiver says no help is needed, it’s okay to ask again later. Show the caregiver that you are sincere in your desire to help.

    Some good questions to ask:

    • I made an extra batch of soup. When is a good time for me to drop it by?
    • Can I come over to help you with your honey-do list? Change light bulbs? Fix the leaky faucet? I’ve got free time every day around lunch time next week.
    • Can the kids and I come over and rake the yard this weekend? It will be a good family activity. We would love to help.

    Challenge Time: Ask for specifics. Listen. Encourage your caregiver friend to make a wish list. Keep in mind, it can be hard to ask for help. Be ready to help where and when you can. Check out our recent blog post on 31 Ways to Care for Caregivers. It might give you ideas for ways you can support your caregiver friend.

    This post is a part of our #iCareforCaregivers campaign. Want to learn more about #iCareforCaregivers and how you can join in? Check out the official webpage at pagerobbins.org/icareforcaregivers.


    September 30, 2016

    31 Ways to Care for Caregivers


    To kick off our #iCareforCaregivers campaign, we’re sharing a list of 31 ways you can care for caregivers. Want to learn more about #iCareforCaregivers and how you can join in on the sharing and caring? Check out the official webpage at pagerobbins.org/icareforcaregivers.

    There’s 31 days in October, so we encourage you to think of a caregiver you know and do one thing each day this month to show him or her you care. Make a caregiver’s day! Let’s reduce caregiver isolation and stress one good day at a time.

    1. Smile
    2. Give a hug
    3. Say, “You’re a wonderful caregiver!”
    4. Listen, don’t interrupt
    5. Give them the benefit of the doubt
    6. Mail a card just because
    7. Call
    8. Send a funny or encouraging text
    9. Take a bouquet of flowers
    10. Drop off a small treat at the door with no “from” on it
    11. Go visit
    12. Invite them over for a meal or football game
    13. Invite them over just because
    14. Have a normal conversation
    15. Remember and recognize birthdays/anniversaries that their loved one might forget
    16. Have coffee, muffins, and conversation one morning
    17. Take them their favorite Sonic or Starbucks drink
    18. Shop for groceries or pick up groceries that have been ordered online
    19. Take them out to eat
    20. Make a meal or an extra casserole
    21. Stay with their loved one for an hour or so while they run errands, go to an appointment, attend worship, etc.
    22. Pay for or be an in-home caregiver for the day
    23. Help them remember and keep doctor/dentist appointments
    24. Roll the garbage can to the street and roll it back when it’s been emptied
    25. Offer to do some “honey-do’s,” like changing lightbulbs and air filters
    26. Do housework or hire housekeeping help
    27. Mow the yard or hire a yard service
    28. Wash clothes
    29. Put gas in the car
    30. Take the car to have it washed and/or serviced
    31. Ask specifically what the caregiver needs, and do it


    September 21, 2016

    Accepting the Diagnosis

    No one expects to be a caregiver to a loved one with dementia. No one plans for life to turn out this way, just as your loved one never planned on having dementia. Maybe you had plans to enjoy retirement, to travel, visit family, and spend time with grandchildren. Perhaps you are still working and raising your own children, yet you are in the throes of caring for a loved one with dementia.

    NO ONE plans for life to be this way, so it can be hard to accept your new reality when it happens. Accepting a diagnosis of dementia is not a simple, overnight process. It takes time.

    Before you can begin the process of accepting a diagnosis, it is very important to get a clear diagnosis. If you take your mom to an appointment and the doctor says, “She has cancer,” you do not say thank you and walk out the door. You ask questions. What type of cancer? Will it spread? What is the recommended treatment? What are the side effects? What is the prognosis? You need and want more information. The same should be true with the diagnosis of dementia. If possible, it is important to get a clear diagnosis and to ask questions. What type of dementia? What stage? Are there medications that can help? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your loved one’s doctor can be an invaluable resource.

    Accepting a diagnosis of dementia is ongoing. Once you have become accustomed to the new normal and how to deal with certain challenges, it suddenly changes. For example, in the past few months, your biggest challenge may have been your mom constantly wanting your attention, but now the challenge is that your mom is often uncooperative. You then have to accept the new normal, which could change again soon.

    Individuals with dementia can no longer function as they once did, so you, as the caregiver, must learn to accept your loved one’s declining abilities and make adjustments. The harsh reality is that your relationship will change, and it cannot continue as it once was. Understanding and acceptance means you can have realistic expectations. With dementia, it is the caregiver that must change to suit his or her loved one. When a caregiver does not accept the new normal, it can lead to continual disappointment and anger and to wasted energy and a negative cycle of words and emotions.

    So how do you accept your new normal? We asked family caregivers at Page Robbins for their best tips on accepting the changes and challenges that come along with a dementia diagnosis. These people are in your shoes. They get it. So we hope you’ll read these words and be encouraged, and we also hope you’ll put their advice to practice.

    • “Be patient.”
    • “Try to remember that your loved one is probably not doing ‘it’ to aggravate you.”
    • “Your loved one can’t help it. It is the disease.”
    • “Try not to snap at your loved one when you are frustrated. It only makes things worse.”
    • “There comes a point in time when you simply can’t use logic with your loved one anymore, so don’t try. It just leads to more frustration for both of you.”
    • “Constantly correcting the person is not good. Dementia is a separate reality. You can’t re-orient them – just as well as you know it is Sunday, your loved one thinks it is Tuesday. Why argue?”
    • “Give yourself permission to not be perfect. We all have bad days and mess up. We all make mistakes. Just because you are a caregiver does not mean that you should now be prefect.”
    • “Have a good doctor and enlist his or her help, especially for major changes such as switching to disposable briefs, taking away the keys, etc.”
    • “Well-meaning people will say things they feel are helpful , when in reality it’s things they really should have kept to themselves. That person is not walking in your shoes and most likely doesn’t know all there is to know about you and your loved one.”
    • “Keep your sense of humor. For God’s sake… it is OK to laugh!”
    • “Accept help when offered.”
    • “Learn the tricks. Build your tool kit (i.e. distraction, preferred family member, fiblets, keeping things simple, avoid arguments).”
    • “Take Care of yourself!”
    • “Being a caregiver isn’t rocket science… It’s much more difficult than that.”

    If you’re looking for opportunities to connect with other caregivers, be sure to check out our caregiver support group opportunities. And feel free to call us to ask questions or seek guidance (901-854-1200). Even if your loved one lives hundreds of miles away and will never use our services, we’re happy to help.

    If you’re having trouble accepting the diagnosis, our Starting Point Class for those with a loved one who has been recently diagnosed with dementia and for those who suspect their loved one might have dementia is Saturday, October 1 from 9 to 10 am at the Center. Please call to reserve your spot.

    March 17, 2016

    Vision and Dementia

    Seeing and understanding our world is a multi-step process – our eyes take in an image, that image is then sent to our brains (along with information from the other senses), and then the brain processes the image using the information gathered and past experience to make sense of what is being seen. When someone has dementia, there is a breakdown in this process.

    What can you do as a caregiver or friend of one with dementia?

    First and foremost, it is imperative that those with dementia have regular vision screenings so that any issues with vision can be addressed and corrected as soon as possible. An impaired brain needs to receive the best information it can, and regular vision screenings will help ensure this occurs. If the person has glasses, be sure they are the correct prescription and lenses are clean. If glasses are constantly being misplaced, put them on a chain or keep an extra pair at the ready.

    Here are additional things you can do to help your loved one:

    • Create contrast. Those with dementia have difficulty distinguishing objects of similar color. For example, a pale yellow plate on a white tablecloth may blend in. A brown handrail mounted on a brown wall or a white button on a light colored shirt can’t be seen. A dark mug with black coffee may look like an empty mug. It is best to use contrasting colors to highlight things you want your loved one to see. Put the black coffee in a light colored cup. If the wall is light brown, paint the handrail black. Instead of a light colored shirt with light buttons, choose a blue shirt with white buttons. Serve dinner on a white plate on a red tablecloth.
    • Put on your binoculars. An average young person can put his hands straight out to each side and see his fingertips using peripheral vision. As we age, peripheral vision naturally narrows, but with dementia, a person’s field of vision narrows drastically. Dementia care expert Teepa Snow uses the analogy of binoculars to explain this change in vision. Place your hands over your eyes like binoculars. You can’t see much – right? A limited field of vision can easily cause falls and other accidents. Keep this in mind when guiding your loved one through a room or assessing potential fall hazards. Also, when eating, your loved one may not be able to see part of the plate, so you may need to turn the plate so that the other food can be seen.
    • Keep in mind difficulties with depth perception. Changes in flooring can be confusing. A dark rug may look like a black hole, so the person will step around it or won’t walk over it for fear of falling into a bottomless pit. Consider moving the dark rug or switching it for a color similar to the flooring. When the flooring switches from carpet to tile, your loved one may think it is a step up/down. When walking with your loved one, verbally reassure him or her that the flooring is the same level. Your loved one may think the chair is close enough to sit, while really he or she is still far from the chair. Help guide your loved one to the seat.
    • Fill rooms with bright, direct light. As we age, we require brighter light to see. This is even truer for those with dementia. The brain can play tricks in poor lighting. Imagine sitting in your living room with the blinds open and curtains pulled back in the late afternoon. The sun begins to set and shadows start appearing. Those with dementia may think the coatrack in the corner is a person or the random misplaced shoe is cat on the living room floor. Close the blinds, pull the curtains, and ensure sufficient indoor lighting is available before the sun sets to help avoid extra confusion.
    • Eliminate unnecessary visual noise. An environment that is cluttered or filled with multiple, strong patterns can be confusing for the already confused brain. A cleaner and more simplified environment is ideal. Embrace spring cleaning. Enlist of the help of family, friends, or neighbors and declutter as much as possible.

    If you have specific questions or concerns, our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack, is available to talk with you and answer questions (901.854.1200 or sheri@pagerobbins.org).