Meeting the emotional needs of people living with dementia can be hard.
Often a person with dementia can have trouble expressing themselves and can become frustrated as a result. The best thing to remember is that each person is still an individual, and how you respond in any situation should be personal to them – this is often called person centred care, or personally tailored care.
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Some recent media reports have discussed the idea of ‘therapeutic lying’. This is where someone may lie to a person with dementia in the belief that it is more beneficial for them than knowing or being reminded of the truth.
For example, it could be that a person with dementia is asking to see an old relative who is no longer alive, and someone caring for them may consider lying to them in response to help keep them happy. There are a number of ways to handle this difficult situation and the better you know the person, the less complex this is to deal with. It’s important to consider that lying to a person with dementia – for example telling them that their relative will be back soon – would only provide a temporary solution and could exasperate the situation later on. Equally, telling the truth could cause that person significant distress. Distracting them could also leave the person more confused and frustrated. Another reaction is to validate their feelings. By telling them that you understand their emotions and why they are asking for that relative, you can help them to feel supported and secure.
In any circumstance, to begin to understand what a person living with dementia might be saying, first try to consider the context of the question being asked. Look beyond what the person is saying to find the meaning behind the words, and respond to the feelings they may be expressing.