How to Redirect A Loved One With Dementia

We understand the challenges that can come when being a caregiver for a loved one with dementia. Often times, someone with dementia displays inappropriate behavior regularly and this behavior needs to be redirected.  Redirection helps the person change the direction of their actions from inappropriate or unsafe to more constructive and appropriate behavior. Now that we know this, the question is, how do you effectively redirect someone’s behavior? 

Stay calm 

Maintaining a calm demeanor when someone is doing something potentially dangerous is essential. It is human nature to get upset or speak loudly out of concern. However,  that raises the stress level of the person with dementia. So start with a calm and confident approach. 

Provide physical touch or tactile cues 

A tactile cue is a physical touch or prompt that enables you to bring attention to the body part you want to engage. For example, if your loved one is in the middle of eating and gets distracted, you can touch their hand and gently remind them that they are using the fork in their hand.  The best technique to approach someone for physical touch is called hand-under-hand. Offer your hand palm up and allow them to take your hand, which gives you the ability to guide or assist them in daily activities, such as eating. Using this technique will let your loved one go through the motions of the action, but will give you the ability to guide them safely and effectively. 

Ask questions 

When someone’s behavior starts to go off the rails, there is usually an emotion or feeling behind it, and we need to find out what that could be. Try to find out where they are coming from and what’s on their mind. Look at the environment and see if there could be cues or triggers that are making them feel anxious. Sometimes, keys and a purse being left out could be a cue to them that it’s time to go somewhere, thus causing fear or stress about being late. 

Be empathetic

Try to show that you understand how your loved one is feeling. Do not try to correct their thinking or argue with them. Be reassuring and tell them you know they are upset. Get them to talk about how they are feeling by asking open-ended questions. People with dementia will eventually lose the ability to follow the logical side of a situation. Trying to be rational will only worsen the situation. It’s OK to follow along while redirecting them. However, you do not need to fall into their delusions. You may say something like “I understand the dog in the living room is bothersome, why do you think he’s here?”  Showing a bit of empathy can go a long way and will usually keep things on an even level. 

Change the subject

Try moving to a different topic by using turns-of-phrase to redirect their thoughts. For example, “I understand it upsets you that the mail is late today. Speaking of late, it’s past the time to feed the cat. He must be hungry. What do you think?” Bridging from one topic to another is a great way to redirect, especially when someone is upset or agitated.   

At Shepherd’s Staff In-home Care, our caregivers are trained in the proper technique to care for someone with dementia. If you find that you require some additional help in caring for a loved one who has dementia or would like some extra assistance in the art of redirection, please contact us. 

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