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How to Approach Someone With Alzheimer’s

How to Approach Someone with Alzheimer's

We’ve all seen items like this in the news where a public servant comes upon an elderly person and doesn’t realize they have dementia or Alzheimer’s and startles the person. This can lead to outrages which make the servant think they are being uncooperative and can lead to serious bodily injury to the elderly person.

There have also been times in restaurants when a spouse orders for the other one and the server gets agitated by this. You have to calmly state, that my spouse (or significant other) has Alzheimer’s and can’t order for him or herself. 

I know it’s sad, but people don’t understand and therefore don’t know how to approach someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. We’ll look at some ways to, and not to, approach someone with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.

Please remember, the person with Alzheimer’s brain is damaged, so they don’t process information the way they used to. They can’t always remember who you are, so to them, chances are you are a stranger approaching them. Proceed with caution.

5 Tips on approaching someone with Alzheimer’s

  1. Make sure you always approach from the front, never from behind. We can all be startled when someone approaches us from behind, but with a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, this can cause a flight or fight response and they may lash out at you.
  2. Approach them very slowly. Approaching too quickly can also cause a flight or fight response and this is never good for you or the elder person.
  3. Stand with your hands at your sides. Do not stand with your arms on your hips or crossed in front of you. This may look like you are being confrontational and this will cause them to shut down. Remember, their brain is not functioning like it used to so be patient.
  4. Don’t bend over them when talking or visiting. Pull up a chair or crouch down so you are at eye level or just below. You don’t want them to think you are trying to overpower them.
  5. Once they are comfortable with you and should you decide to go out to lunch or for a walk, offer your hand. Do not reach out and grab their arm or hand; this again will cause the flight or fight response and you will lose any trust you have just earned. 

Hopefully, the tips above will help you when approaching a person with Alzheimer’s or related dementia. Should you feel you need more guidance, we at Assistance Living Made Simple hold five (5) Alzheimer’s caregiver support groups a month; check out the resources tab to find the one closest to you. 

Just please, remember one thing, the person with Alzheimer’s brain does NOT function like it used to; they do NOT remember like they used to; PLEASE be patient! We are here to help you; you do NOT have to go this alone!!

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