What you need to know
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Thank you for taking time to learn more. If you've had a chance to read some of the stories on this site, you've likely discovered some common themes. When people are diagnosed, for example, they often characterize it as a shock, while many are surprised that their preconceived ideas about dementia being an "old person's" disease are incorrect. The truth is, living with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia is unique to every individual and their families. What can you do? Keep reading to learn more and help make your community more dementia-friendly.
The way that dementia affects communication is different for everyone, and can vary throughout the course of the disease. Respectful, sensitive communication is key, and it is possible at all stages of dementia. Be supportive and use things that are familiar to the person to create a reassuring environment. If their perception of reality becomes confused, try to be creative, rather than contradictory in your responses.
How dementia affects behaviour also varies from person to person and these symptoms can change over time. Changes in behaviour can be the most distressing and challenging aspects of dementia and can affect caregivers and family members. Some, but not all people living with dementia can, at times, become agitated or aggressive. They can also become lost or disoriented. Other behaviours include suspicion and restlessness. Always try to remain calm and reassuring, and never judge or scold. Your local Alzheimer Society can provide information on strategies to help you understand and respond to various behaviours.
Maintaining a familiar environment can help a person living with dementia to feel more safe and secure. It provides tangible links to the past and helps a person maintain a sense of who they are. If you encounter a person who you know has been diagnosed, try to make sure they feel safe in their surroundings, and engage in conversation that may reassure them if they become agitated or confused about where they are.
Always remember that a person living with dementia has value, feelings and emotions. Each individual is unique. Routine is important for the person to feel safe and better connected. Yes, it’s a challenge for the person with dementia as well as for their family and caregivers. But by being patient, caring and supportive, you can make a huge difference in their ability to manage life with dementia.
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