How to Get Help
Info to Share with Your Friends
Your loved one is probably adored by lots of people besides you. But dementia has altered all of those interactions, and most people have no idea what to do or how to help your family. If they asked you for guidance, what would you tell them?
One father sent an e-mail to friends and family members about his wife before a gathering. He included the following:
- As her disease progresses, she will initiate less communication. She will appear distant and disinterested to greetings and questions.
- However, she still seeks connection with her family and friends. You have to help make that happen! She is not hard of hearing, just unresponsive, so speak in a clear, normal voice. She will not answer most questions with more than a “yes” or “no.”
- She likes to walk, but should always be with someone unless she is in the house; even then, keep an eye on her, since she can be as elusive as a 2-year old.
- When she eats, make sure that she has small portions. If you are next to her, offer to cut up some pieces so she can eat without a knife.
- Sometimes she will take your hand, or lightly touch your arms or cheeks. Don’t be alarmed. She fondly remembers her connection with you, but she can’t tell you this in words, so this is her way of reaching out to you!
What Young Caregivers Really Appreciate
If you are friends with someone whose parent has dementia, the most important way you can help is to listen. You don’t need to comment on everything, or dig up a story of your own. Your ability to hang out with someone who is expressing pain and loss means that you are a person of strength and character. Keep going. Just be there.
If you really want to do something specific, say more than “Let me know what I can do to help…” Your friend is suffering, and may not know the answer to that question. Instead, think about what you would want if one of your parents began to disappear, slowly and painfully, from your life. Invite your friend to go hiking, to the mall, to see a movie, to eat lunch, or over to your house for a homework session. You might even offer to assist with caretaking duties one day. If you do, you’ll understand more about what your friend is going through. Offer anything you know s/he may have trouble requesting, but will appreciate. Also, be sure to check in fairly regularly to see how everything is going. Most of the time, you don’t need to plan an elaborate outing. You just need to offer your time and attention.
For Younger Kids
Have a younger sibling? Download an activity booklet that helps children with big topics.