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In our last article entitled How to Manage Frustration Among Loved Ones With Dementia, we discussed how to respond to a moment of anger or fear experienced by a loved one realizing that they are experiencing symptoms of their dementia. In this piece, we’re going to look at how simple, tactful actions on your part can help limit the frequency of negative experiences. 

Prevention Requires Understanding

Before you can aim to prevent moments of frustration experienced by a loved one with dementia, you must understand which experiences may trigger frustration. For example, noticing a frustration with activities that require dexterity, such as tying shoes or cutting up food, should warrant your consideration for an environmental shift. A lagging memory may also motivate you to tactfully limit such episodes of mental stress. 

Discretion in Prevention

Though you should absolutely respond to an experience that triggers genuine frustration, not all difficult situations may trigger frustration. In fact, if you swoop in prematurely to remedy a situation that has not yet triggered frustration, though you feel you are preventing frustration, you may actually be inciting it. 

An example of this may be speaking for a loved one at the first sign of mental lapse or even not giving them the opportunity to answer a question at all. Though not recalling the details of a story or someone’s name can be frustrating, give them a few moments to attempt to recall such details before lending your assistance. Speaking for them before they appear to be frustrated may make them feel as though you doubt their abilities, which may be construed as disrespect.

Tact = Dignity

When aiming to prevent moments of frustration experienced by a loved one with dementia, it is essential to be both tactful and subtle to respect their dignity. Calling attention to their inabilities or treating them differently from others in an overt fashion may even cause them to feel embarrassed. 

Not Calling Attention to Their Disability Among Others

One example of discreetly preventing frustration may exist at the dinner table. Though you may feel you are being helpful and preventing frustration by cutting up their food, doing so for them and no one else may cause them to feel embarrassed. Instead, if you’ve observed that cutting such food will likely be frustrating for them, consider cutting up all of the food for all guests into edible, fork-ready sizes in the preparation process without explaining why. 

Tactful Changes in Environment

Another example displaying such tact may include self-care in the form of shoes. If you notice that a loved one is struggling to tie their shoes, an obvious remedy would be buying them velcro or slip-on shoes. The key aspect of this action is discretion. Do not say you did so because you noticed that they struggle to tie their shoes. Instead, frame the new shoes as a gift, maybe that you thought the color would complement their handbag or some other kind-yet-benign reason. 

Gauge How Your Prevention Techniques Are Received

Whether you’re responding to moments of frustration or aiming to tactfully prevent frustrating experiences, it is important to carefully gauge how your assistance is received. One of the best responses is little response at all—not detecting the subtle changes to their environment while enjoying their benefit. If you feel that your preventative measures are being negatively received by your loved one with dementia, you may consider scaling some of your measures back or strategize how to make them less overt. 

Caring for your loved one with dementia is frequently a balancing act in providing appropriate care while respecting their dignity. Doing so effectively will allow you to meet their needs while preventing frustrating experiences.

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