This article was created for the My Elder Advisor website. The goal was to teach caregivers about a simple technique for helping someone with dementia.
When an individual begins to see the early signs of dementia, it is the start of what will undoubtedly be a slippery slope. One thing that remains the same is that individuals do not get better. For those involved as caretakers, it can feel as though one is observing a loved one disappearing. But for family, friends, and others, there are some basic techniques to help the individual feel more at ease. In this article, we will be looking at some of the basic issues that arise with an individual during their descent, and at least one specific technique for you to help ease their confusion.
The first signs of dementia are felt by the individual. They see themselves as being forgetful but write it off as just another age-related issue. This thought process is quite prevalent since we, as a society, would rather believe old age before we consider the word “dementia.” But as forgetfulness slowly turns to confusion, it becomes clear that this person is no longer who they once were.
For many, the hardest part is after the initial diagnosis. At that point, the individual has enough wherewithal to understand what is happening to them. It is common for someone with early [vascular] dementia to experience mood changes, such as apathy or anxiety. Depression is common, partly because people with [vascular] dementia may be aware of the difficulties the condition is causing. As the initial caregivers, families often find that their parent/spouse/etc. is no longer the person they once knew.
Some families may choose to keep their relative at home but bring in a Home Health Aid [HHA] to help with daily routines. This can be very helpful in easing the strain on the family. Be aware that there will most likely be some push back from the individual as this new person dictates which activities will happen. These can range anywhere from bathing to trips to the grocery store.
The HHA is there to help the individual through their day and keep them on a schedule. But again, over time, the individual’s memory will continue to deteriorate. It may be time to begin looking into skilled nursing facilities. Looking for the right facility can be daunting. Families will often feel as though they are failing to do enough. This could not be further from the truth.
There is no shame in being honest with oneself and admitting you need people to take care of your loved one. A skilled facility will know how to deal with all varieties of dementia. A loved one may be resistant but will benefit from a daily routine that is in place specifically for them. They no longer needs to pick out what clothes to wear or worry about cooking meals. However, many facilities will offer daily group tasks, such as cooking, for individuals to join if they so choose.
These folks need reassurance as they are prone to anxiety due to their inability to realize what is happening around them. Visitors will press them with statements such as, “come on, you know me!” or “you are in a nursing facility.” When these statements are made (though often in good faith), the individual may become agitated and scared that there are things they should know but cannot recall.
That is why a technique exists called “fiblets.” A fiblet is an effective therapeutic intervention for people living with dementia. When utilized properly, the person is relieved and reassured. Your goal as a caregiver should be to produce moments of peace resulting in positive feelings for the person living with dementia.
An example: An individual is standing by a locked door. They are wearing a coat and holding a bag that contains clothing. When asked what they are doing they reply that they are waiting for their taxi to arrive. Rather than tell them there is no such taxi and that they are wasting their time, revert to a Fiblet. For example: “Mr. Smith, we received a call that your taxi may be a bit late. Why not leave your things with us, and come to the dining room for some dinner? We will come and get you once the taxi arrives.”
In nearly every case the individual will agree, allowing themselves to be taken to dinner. By the end of dinner, the taxi is no longer even a thought, and the staff has already put the individual’s clothing and items back in their room. This type of redirection exists without the need to “wake” the individual up to their actual reality. This is important and can turn the most belligerent individual into one that feels at ease in their surroundings.
No matter where the individual is being taken care of, be it at home or in a nursing facility, fiblets can be the one thing that allows everyone to exist peacefully and without fear. Having the right attitude when working with these individuals can be difficult at times. However, knowing that you are helping folks can be a great feeling.