Emily’s Coping Strategies – Prompts, Direction & Distraction

Whether you have a diagnosis, or you’re a carer, relative or friend of someone with dementia, I aim to try and share some of my knowledge in how to cope and adapt some of the everyday conversations or activities you do. Everyone has different symptoms and behaviours and I hope some of the following may help. These can be put into action and trialed during the current lockdown and after.

I have gained and adopted the coping strategies and distraction techniques whilst working in several health care settings caring for people at different stages and with varying dementia diagnosis’.  I have also taken an active role to support loved ones, as well has having personal experience in caring for my 3 grandparents who had Alzheimer’s.

Prompts and directions can help with how both the carer and the person with dementia communicate.

We always need to remember everyone has different capabilities but try and give some of these ago as a way of enhancing your ability to communicate with each other:

  • use hand movements
  • use picture or word cards
  • give simple instructions
  • give each other time to ask questions and give answers
  • speak slowly and clearly
  • try not to finish each other’s sentences

Here`s some examples of how these prompts and directions can help:

Bob (person with dementia)

Daisy (his wife)

Bob wanted a drink but was unable to communicate this. He was walking around in the kitchen opening cupboards so Daisy asked if he was ok, but Bob continued to look around the kitchen. Daisy then asked Bob if he would like something to eat and showed him the fridge but Bob closed the fridge door and said no. She then asked if he would like a drink and showed him the kettle and a bottle of squash. Bob answered yes and pointed to the kettle. Daisy got everything ready to make the tea but encouraged Bob to take part at various steps. I.e. putting the teabags into the cups, putting the sugar and stirring the teabag. She also let him chose the biscuits they were going to have with their lovely cup of tea.

Hazel (person living with dementia)

Ron (husband)

Hazel lives at home with her husband Ron. Although Hazel sometimes forgets that their family home is home now due to her Alzheimer’s. This means she often asks Ron to take her home and she tries to leave the house. This worries Ron but he has developed some good distraction techniques. When Hazel starts to ask about going home Ron will often encourage Hazel to sit down and have a drink or something to eat first.  Whilst they are having a drink or something to eat he will use a conversation distraction and talk about the garden or a walk in the local park. All the time encouraging Hazel to engage in conversation talking about the flowers, the weather or maybe cutting the grass. He will then offer to take her for a wander around the garden or plan to go for a walk at the park. Sometimes he will take her for a drive in the car, playing some of her favourite music and then say let’s go home. These type of distraction techniques often divert the thought process for Hazel.

These distraction techniques do not always work but it is about learning how the person with dementia and carer can adapt to coping with various situations which may arise. Reassurance, perseverance and patience play a big part in developing new ways of communicating when a diagnosis of a dementia is made. Don’t give up.

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