Common Sense Caregiving
Learning to Introduce Yourself to Dementia
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Hi Folks,
This week's newsletter is on learning how to start off a visit with some who has dementia in the moderate to late stages. This should be a must read for all family & professional caregivers.

 Learning to Introduce Yourself to Dementia

Part of the training we have put in place for health care professionals, whether it is in a hospital or takes place in a nursing care community setting, is advising all staff members to introduce and reintroduce themselves every time they enter the patients’ rooms.
For family caregivers, if you plan to visit with loved ones who have dementia, even in their own homes, please don’t start out your introduction as a question.  If you do, there is a very good chance that you will raise anxiety and levels of confusion right off the bat. We need to learn to approach a dementia patient without multiple questions and needs for decisions. Instead, try to begin with a simple, uncomplicated introduction. Yes, even if you’re the spouse of 50 years, your first words should be “Hi, my name is Ellen. I’m your wife.” Don’t be abashed by this. The worst thing you can do is say, “Hi, do you remember me?” This holds especially true in hospitals. A health care professional should identify him or herself immediately, looking the patient directly in the eyes and saying something like, “Hi, my name is Joanne. I’ll be your nurse today.”
Forcing patients to struggle for answers at the inception will get you absolutely nowhere. If you must ask important questions, slowly work your way into them. Let their upper gears start turning first. If approached correctly, you may even get the correct answer. If this is about an important medical or financial matter, however these answers need verification from a family member or each patient’s advocate.

Questions can truly be the root of all evil when it comes to dementia patients. For instance, consider a restaurant setting. You may be wondering why they may become so perplexed in such an atmosphere that possibly even raises behavioral issues. Consider: the first thing that happens when you walk in is that you’re usually asked “Would you like a table or booth?” “Coffee or tea?” “What kind of dressing would you like on your salad?” Even the simple action of placing a large-choice menu in front of them can cause confusion. Limit their choices!

Then there’s the typical din for your loved one, sitting in a public place with multiple conversations going on in the room, maybe even loud music. Regardless of menu/noise level/decision-making, this may simply be an unfamiliar environment to him or her and that may another reason why the anxiety level has gone through the roof. I’m not suggesting you don’t take those living with dementia out to restaurants; I want them to remain as social as possible. I’m saying it’s best to take them to one they’re familiar with. And finally here, instead of grabbing a table near the hostess station where there will be high traffic, choose a table in a quiet section of the dining room.
Another important piece of general advice is, before you introduce yourself, make sure they have visual contact with you. Don’t walk up behind them and startle them.
Ultimately, most of these suggestions refer to those patients who are in the moderate to latter stages of dementia, but even those in the earlier stages may be more confused in a specific health care setting such as a hospital. The most important factor in any such placement is to make sure they receive the respect that they truly deserve.
You may be lucky enough to have an exceptional conversation with them, just by starting it out correctly. You know what they say about first impressions.

Upcoming Speaking Even
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"This is an awesome book written by someone who has lived it and going through it. Very practical advice. His other books regarding dementia and Alzheimer's are a great guide to anyone who is a caregiver. I highly recommend this book, not just to caregivers, but to all medical professionals as well."

I'm happy to say that if you live in my area, you're welcome to stop by my bookstore (U.S. 41 BOOKS) and pick up a copy of my newest book.

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Thank you.


Also don't forget to go to and check out our short amazing videos all done by those living with dementia and the rest of the website.

Stay strong everyone!
Gary Joseph LeBlanc
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