By Jaime Cobb
People living with dementia have the same emotional needs now that they did before the onset of dementia. They need opportunities to engage in meaningful activity, be free from anxiety and feel as though they still matter – especially during times of change or naturally stressful situations.
Here are six ways you can promote, improve and maintain your loved one’s emotional well-being.
- Validate his/her feelings. If your loved one voices concern about an issue, don’t dismiss it. Instead say, “I understand how you are feeling, I’m here with you and it will be OK,” or, “Yes, this is upsetting, but we’re going to get through this together.” You want to validate their feelings but offer reassurances of safety.
- Provide meaning and purpose. An important part of emotional wellness is feeling needed and useful. Simply saying, “I need your help,” or, “Would you help me?” and giving them a task to do (within their ability level) can go a long way to helping them feel purposeful. It will also curb boredom that can lead to depression.
- Maintain comforting routines. Structure and routine are important to a person with dementia. By keeping sleep and wake times consistent as well as helping the person get up and get dressed for the day, even while staying at home, you can provide comfort and a sense of normalcy.
- Limit the news. Your loved one will likely not be able to process the news. Wait until they are occupied elsewhere before you catch up on current events and encourage others to refrain from discussing upsetting events as much as possible. Your loved one’s inability to process and make sense of what is happening will only create anxiety and fear.
- Remember the power of touch. The only touch many older adults receive is from their caregivers. Offer your loved one a hug in the morning or before bed. If they are anxious or lonely, sit next to them and hold their hand. Calming physical touch, like a nice hand massage with scented lotion, may feel comforting.
- Make time for exercise. Exercise is crucial in emotional well-being. Going outside allows the person with dementia (and you) to get fresh air, sunlight and some physical activity. If they’re unable to walk, even just sitting outdoors can be beneficial. Those who are wheelchair-bound can still do simple arm exercises, leg kicks and stretches.
Looking for more ways to care for your loved one’s mental, emotional and physical well-being? Check out our blog covering caregiving-related topics and educational materials (including videos and podcasts) to help you navigate the different stages of dementia. You can also connect with our dementia care community by subscribing to our e-newsletter.