As a social worker, I am often asked how I stay calm and patient, when interacting with a dementia client, who presents with tear-fullness and confusion, or asks repetitive questions.
Here are three tips:
1) I take a deep breath and speak with the dementia patient, slowly and calmly.
Our patients, whether they are diagnosed with dementia or not, can read our body language and sense our emotions.
Therefore, for a patient diagnosed with dementia (who is already presenting as agitated and tearful), I check my emotions at the door and approach them calmly and with compassion.
2) I ask for help.
For the days that I am feeling a little bit more tired and emotional than usual, I am up-front and honest with the care team that I need help working with that particular patient on that day.
As a caregiver, it is important for us to stay in tune with our emotions. If we know by Thursday of each week, we need a break, build in that break into our schedules.
For example, schedule a companion from a home care agency to spend a few hours with our loved ones on the afternoons of Thursday and Friday, so we have enough fuel to finish the week.
3) I meet them where they are.
As a caregiver and social worker, if my loved one or patient said that today is Friday and they went to the mall that morning to go shopping, even though today is Monday and they spent the morning at the doctor, I am okay with that.
There is no reason to argue or correct them.
I focus on the time I spend with them, whether it is Monday or Friday in their mind.
So, even though the caregiving journey is long and hard, I focus on the time I spend with my loved ones and patients, rather than arguing with them. I am honest with myself, as to when I need I break, so I can approach our time together with compassion and empathy.