We all need to know we matter.
We know we matter when our spouse or partner tells us we look great with a beaming smile on their face.
We know we matter when our young children tell us they love us.
We know we matter when our teen children give an awkward hug and a mumbled thanks after we have helped them through a teenage challenge.
We know we matter when our boss at work congratulates us on a job well done.
We know we matter when our friends pop around to our home to cheer us up or just to have a cup of tea and spend time with us.
When a person develops dementia it is harder for them to know they matter.
Remembering events, words and how to do simple everyday things can get harder for a person with dementia. Some of their abilities and character traits start to fade. They forget things, get irritable, their health may be deteriorating in other ways too.
A person with dementia may have been able to help raise a family, tell funny jokes, play sports regularly, read a book a month or do DIY jobs around the house. They may have been very proud of their personal and work achievements in life and developed positive personal characteristics as a result.
As dementia progresses, their whole identity and how the see the world is changing. Their strengths seem to be fading and there seem to be increasing problems with everyday living. This is when we need to remind them, that they matter as a person, regardless of the dementia.
7 Ways to Let a Person with Dementia Know That They Matter
- Compliment them on their style of dress or how they look in general.
- Be polite (apologise and thank them whenever appropriate).
- Talk to them about their long term memories of growing up and as an adult. When you hear their stories, tell them what you have learnt from the stories or remind them of how much you valued the experience, if you were there too.
- If the person welcomes them, give gentle touches or hugs (with and without reason) whenever possible to remind them they are loved and safe.
- Respect and keep to their preferences, habits and routines for daily living (washing, dressing, cooking, eating) as much as possible.
- Make a positive comment and show your appreciation when they cook a meal, make something or do something independently.
- Take photos/video of new, positive experiences they are having as an individual and with others.
- Focus on what they can do and give them useful activities to do at home that can help you and the family. A sense of achievement and independence is very healthy.
The list above is just a starting point and you will probably find your own ways to show the person you care for that they matter, regardless of the change that dementia is bringing.