Responding to Tricky Questions with Compassion: Dementia Patient Care

Posted on Aug 31, 2021

speaking with a loved one with dementia

If you’re a caretaker of a loved one with dementia, you know that their confusion typically results in many different questions. The more disoriented they may become, the more questions they may ask. They may ask about a job they haven’t worked in years. They might ask about a home that they were forced to move out of due to their condition. They may even ask about a spouse or other loved one who has been deceased for decades. 

Reasoning with Dementia Patients Rarely Works

As logical people, we’re conditioned to want to answer questions truthfully. When it comes to caring for loved ones with dementia, you’ll quickly realize that they’re rarely thinking logically when it pertains to the specifics of their immediate surroundings. They may ask where their cat is—though they themselves had to take the cat to be put to sleep 20 years ago. If you were to answer them logically and thus truthfully, you would likely upset them very much. The next day, they may ask about the cat once again—and thus force you to repeat the painful and confusing truth all over again. 

Compassionate Responses Rather Than Truthful Answers

So, how do you respond to tricky questions when the truth would only upset your loved ones with dementia? By responding with a compassionate response rather than a truthful one. It is also helpful to pivot the subject to a new activity to take their mind off such questions.   

The following are a few examples: 

Your mother asks about her cat Mittens who has been gone a long time.

  • Truthful answer: “Mittens had to be put down over 20 years ago, Mom.”
  • Compassionate response: “Mitten is sleeping. Let’s go for a walk.”

Your father wants to go home, though he’s had to move in with you due to his condition. 

  • Truthful answer: Dad, you live with me now. We sold your house to the McKinneys. 
  • Compassionate response: That’s very far away. I made up a room for you at my house and I’m making dinner for us tonight. 

Your husband wakes up in a panic because he thinks he’s late for work, even though he’s been retired for 15 years. 

  • Truthful answer: You haven’t worked at that job for 15 years. You’re retired. 
  • Compassionate response: You’re off work today. Would you like to help me with this puzzle? 

For most tricky questions for which a truthful answer would only result in upsetting your loved one with dementia, there are likely an array of compassionate responses you can employ. It’s likely worthwhile for you to have a few such responses at the ready so that you can avoid confusing or upsetting experiences. It’s also helpful to keep your compassionate responses consistent in case they recall what you've said in the past.

Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one is looking for professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, look no further than your friends at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Don’t Feel Guilty: Identifying & Remedying Caretaker Guilt

Posted on Aug 31, 2021

man stressed out

Are you experiencing caretaker’s guilt or burnout?

As the caretaker of a loved one in need—whether this is a spouse with dementia or a parent with a serious condition, you likely feel as though the weight of their entire world is on your shoulders. While there is some truth to the weight of this, you may be feeling a secondary weight—a self-imposed weight of unnecessary guilt over experiencing pleasure for yourself during this time.

This may be a state unofficially known as caretaker guilt. This type of guilt is normal, but when left unchecked, can result in caretaker burnout. Identifying unnecessary guilt is very important.

Have you found yourself...

  • Turning down friendly invitations to enjoyable events you realistically could attend with the right logistics?
  • Taking up friends or family on these invitations but not being present during these moments because you’re too wrapped up in guilt over your loved one not being able to have similar getaways?
  • Ruminating about all the various factors that could go wrong in the care of your loved one rather than what actually is occurring on a daily basis?
  • Not giving yourself breaks or restorative getaways from caretaking because you feel guilty about your loved one not receiving such breaks or getaways from their condition?

If this sounds like you, take a minute to consider the following: 

In the grand scheme of your loved one’s care, is your refusal to enjoy pleasurable experiences helping or hurting your ability to provide quality care? 

If you’re truly honest with yourself, you’re able to see that being engrossed in guilt, rumination, and round-the-clock focus is more of a recipe for burnout than a lapse in care. In fact, if anything, caretaker burnout should be a greater concern than any imagined unfortunate event. 

How to Alleviate Caretaker Guilt & Burnout

Turn Off Your Automatic “No, I Can’t” Mindset

As the caretaker of someone with a serious condition, you’ve likely turned your personal “We’re Open” sign to permanently “Sorry, We’re Closed” when it comes to invites to outings you would enjoy. While it’s true that you likely have to turn down the majority of invitations, “no” shouldn’t be your default reply.

  • Take a moment to consider if you’re reflexively saying “no” or if you could actually make it work. 
  • Weigh the cost-benefit analysis of arranging a few hours of relief from a nearby sibling or close friend. (Spoiler alert: it’s worth it.)
  • Don’t assume that you’re burdening others by requesting relief. You may even be surprised by how many people care about you and would love to help.  

Arrange a Regular Getaway

By now (and likely even before reading this article), you probably understand that your existing or impending burnout is not helping anyone—not your loved one, not your family, and especially not you. And you’re probably already coming up with excuses for not taking a break:

  • I don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding someone to relieve me. 
  • I feel selfish asking someone else to give me a break. 
  • I don’t want to subject my loved one to the idea of me randomly leaving to get a break.

It may be true that getting someone to tend to the needs of this loved one at a moment’s notice would be hard on everyone involved. However, with a little planning and explanation, you can generate the initial momentum necessary for you to have a regularly occurring time to recharge. 

  • Step 1: Realize that you need periodic breaks or getaways from your role as caretaker—not because you’re lazy or callous but because you’re human. You likely already realize the need for these breaks or getaways. 
  • Step 2: Reach out to your close friends and loved ones—preferably individuals familiar with your situation—to inquire about who might be able to relieve you for a few hours a week so you can recharge. This may be as simple as sending a group text message to a handful of close friends and family members or even asking a close friend to call around for you. You may be pleasantly surprised by how many people offer their help! 
  • Step 3: Plan your regular getaways. It’s best to choose the same times and days of the week so that it doesn’t take anyone by surprise. These getaways don’t have to be anything extravagant—even just coffee at a friend’s house, a trip to the library, to catch a movie, or a bite to eat at a local café. It’s best if these getaways are truly away from the house or care center—otherwise, you’ll never fully allow yourself to separate your mind and recharge. 

Help is Closer Than You Think

It's one thing to recognize that caretaker burnout is detrimental to everyone involved—doing something about it is something else. As we’ve mentioned before, you’re not selfish for wanting to periodically treat yourself. Taking the appropriate time to care for yourself will make you a better caretaker for your loved one. 

Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one are looking for professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, look no further than your friends at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Addressing Repeated Questions from Loved Ones With Dementia [4 Techniques]

Posted on Jul 07, 2021

They’re not just trying to annoy you. 

If you have a loved one with dementia, you’re likely very accustomed to being asked the same question several times a day. Though you do your best to answer it every time, their condition means they not only don’t remember your answer but likely don’t remember asking. Though this repetition can be frustrating, the following are four helpful ways to address a loved one with dementia asking the same questions over and over. 

1. Firstly, the most obvious approach — just answer it. 

You may find yourself frustrated with hearing and answering the same question over and over. When this takes place with a loved one with dementia, one of the easiest ways to handle seemingly harmless questions are is to simply answer them as though you also do not remember hearing such questions before. Remember — it is the condition that is causing them to forget your answers. Answering the same questions several times a day is likely the new normal. Coming to terms with this may save you a lot of grief. 

2.  A distraction to a suitable activity may be helpful. 

Some questions can be quickly and easily answered. Other questions may result in complicated or disappointing answers that will be quickly forgotten — though the negative emotions from such answers may remain. To limit having to answer such questions, distracting your loved one from the question with a positive activity may be helpful. Some caregivers suggest a fun or safe activity such as a game or simple craft project. Others have reported that using a bit of humor can distract your loved one from their intention for asking such questions. Still, more caregivers have suggested asking the loved one if they would like to listen to some of their favorite music. These activities have the advantage of not only deflecting repetitious or anxious questions but also take the patient’s mind off any anxieties that inspired such questions — such as why they can’t drive their car or go out by themselves. 

3. Direct their attention to a visual cue that answers their question. 

Just because someone with dementia asks the same question does not mean that it cannot be answered in a meaningful way. One way to answer a question is by diverting its answer to a visual cue. If a loved one with dementia keeps asking about the date or the day’s activities, consider hanging an easily visible calendar on the wall that lists their scheduled activities. Not only will a calendar answer their questions in a satisfying way, but they may also grow conditioned to consult the calendar for such questions instead of repeatedly asking you.

4. Identify and remove what is triggering the question. 

Very few dementia patients will suddenly shift behavior without a sufficient cue. The difficulty on behalf of caregivers is identifying which cues will trigger which behaviors — including the asking of repetitious questions. For instance, you may notice a loved one asking about a certain family member every time they go to the bathroom. Walking the same path, you may discover that they walk past a photo of this family member on their way back from using the bathroom. By moving the photograph or other cue to a location in the home with less regular traffic, you may reduce the repetition of such questions. 

Remember — if you are frustrated, they are confused. 

Despite which of these techniques you attempt to remedy the repetitious questions, remember that your loved one with dementia wouldn’t be asking if they weren’t genuinely confused. Keeping this in mind can greatly decrease any frustration you feel after being asked the same question for the third, fourth, or even twentieth time in a row. 

Palliative care and hospice services in the Greater Tulsa area.

When the time comes for requiring nurturing hospice and palliative care for your loved one, know that you and your family can trust the professional from Cura HPC. We treat every patient as we’d treat our own family — with compassion and the utmost care. 

Learn more about Cura HPC today.

Just Human: Providing Empathy & Support for Non-Dementia Issues for Those With Dementia

Posted on Jul 07, 2021

dementia confusion

Even when the problem is imagined, the hurt is real.

When caring for a loved one with dementia, there are several irrational behaviors that require a specialized response. Your response may require identifying imagined triggers and calming down your loved one. However, there are other instances when, though the negative behavior is rooted in their mental condition, the hurt is real. 

Some examples: 

  • A loved one becomes frustrated about losing the ability to perform an activity that they recall being able to do without help. 
  • A loved one somehow believes something about someone that isn’t true and cannot be convinced otherwise. 

Though rooted in a dementia-related cause, the corresponding negative emotions are quite real — unable to be explained away or soothed. So, what next? 

The pain is real — so treat it as such.

It can be easy for the caretaker of someone with dementia to forget that sometimes people experience hurt not because they have dementia, but because they’re human. Whether they feel they’ve been belittled or they’re just upset because they can no longer operate a coffee maker, the hurt is genuine. The best response in these situations is the same support you’d provide for any frustrated friend or loved one. 

Be there to listen. 

Just like any friend who needs to vent about a problem they’re having at work or in a relationship, your loved one with dementia is no different. Genuinely listen to what is troubling them. More often than not, the sensation of being heard will help them feel better. 

Support them. 

Many negative emotions simply need a listening ear. Others require a shoulder. When you can offer comforting support, do so not from the perspective of a caregiver but as a loved one or friend. When you feel it is appropriate, share a similar experience you’ve had and how you dealt with it. Offer to help in any way you can. 

When in doubt, put yourself in their shoes. 

Helping someone with dementia navigate negative emotions can be incredibly tricky. You’ll feel the need to consult every blog or book under the sun on the issue. Where should you start? Well, a good place to look is in their shoes. Look through their eyes and their thought process. The hurt you would be feeling is real and being told that it is imagined isn’t what you’d want to hear. Sometimes, a little role reversal can make all the difference in providing the most customized and loving care possible. 

Not everything is dementia’s fault. 

It can be easy to forget that, though a loved one is experienced advanced dementia, that their condition may not be the sole reason for their frustration or hurt. For this reason, it’s essential to treat the loved one as a person with genuine hurt and not just a person with a mental condition. 

Palliative care and hospice services in the Greater Tulsa area.

When the time comes for requiring nurturing hospice and palliative care for your loved one, know that you and your family can trust the professional from Cura HPC. We treat every patient as we’d treat our own family — with compassion and the utmost care. 

Learn more about Cura HPC today.

Does My Loved One With Dementia Belong in a Nursing Home?

Posted on Jul 02, 2021

dementia patient

The need for help doesn't mean you’ve given up. 

There is a belief among some that nursing homes exist to care for those without family or whose family does not want to do the necessary work in carrying for them. Before we proceed in this piece, we must strongly dispel this myth that does immense harm to both patients and their loved ones alike. 

No two dementia patients are alike.

Despite the type of dementia or the stage, no conditional level determines the style of care required. Optimal care should be determined on a case-by-case basis and involves a wide variety of factors. This can mean that one extremely advanced Alzheimer’s patient may never need nursing home care while someone else at a less advanced stage may require around-the-clock professional care just depending on the following factors. 

Do you worry about their safety?

If your loved one is a threat to their own safety, nursing home care may be warranted. 

Do they wander off? 

If your loved one is a wanderer, there's a strong chance that belong in a facility that will limit this behavior before it becomes dangerous for them. You probably cannot provide the amount of surveillance and restraint necessary to care for a loved one who is prone to wandering off — especially if you live in a place with extreme climates at different times during the year. 

Can they detect and appropriately respond to danger? 

As a loved one’s dementia progresses, they may begin to lose the instinctual ability to detect, respond to, or avoid danger. When faced with an emergency, they may lack the wherewithal to alert the authorities, to ask for help, or to preserve their own safety, or to guard sensitive information from strangers. 

Do you worry about their bodily functions? 

While it is normal to have to clean up a mess here and there for most patients, once a patient has lost most control of their bodily functions, they likely require more help than one loved one can provide. 

A loss of bowel control can quickly progress from frustrating to exhausting to dangerous. For patients who have frequent accidents or have lost control of their bodily functions altogether, the level of necessary care can exceed the abilities of a well-intended loved one. These patients may become uncooperative during necessary changes or even resist the necessary process of cleaning them. Such living conditions may exceed the abilities of an at-home caregiver and require additional help. 

Do you worry about your own wellbeing? 

While there certain people out there who would just as soon turn family members over to professionals at the slightest inconvenience, there are others who would sooner thoroughly exhaust themselves, risking their own health, to avoid using nursing homes. Neither of these situations is ideal. 

The right decision includes your well-being, too. 

It is normal for someone to feel guilty about checking a loved one into a nursing home. However, when the duties of caring for a loved one threaten your own health (physical, mental, etc.), family life, or even steady income, a nursing home should always be a guilt-free option. 

Once you’ve allowed yourself to be honest with your thoughts, you may come to realize that the ideal care for your loved one includes preserving your own mental and physical well-being as well. 

Don’t think of it as outsourcing care, but rather supplementing care with help from professionals. This professional help will allow you to be the most beneficial version of yourself for your loved one.

Compassionate Hospice & Palliative Care in Tulsa, OK

For families in need of professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care can help.

Learn more about and connect with Cura HPC today.