Coping with dementia behaviors, anxiety in public places

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Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's or another dementia can be an isolating experience. The unpredictable nature of this disease is often the primary reason caregivers find it easier to just stay home.

They are afraid that local businesses might be too busy or confusing, or that their loved one might become anxious, disruptive or even disoriented and lost.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, by 2025, 7.1 million people 65 and older will have the disease. Some in their 40s and 50s are now being diagnosed with the disease.

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's, the following suggestions might help in continuing a more normal lifestyle:

  • Choose a business or restaurant that has quiet places. Loud noises can cause agitation for those with Alzheimer's disease. Those with meeting rooms or restaurants with secluded corners available might work best.
  • Aim to visit a business when you know it will not be as busy or you when won't have to wait in line.
  • Even if employees aren't formally trained to recognize and deal with those who have Alzheimer's or another dementia, frequent businesses where the staff is known to be polite, honest, patient and congenial.
  • Look for businesses that have simple processes and procedures. If it's a restaurant, make sure it's a place where the menu offers simple choices.
  • Carry a small business card with you that has printed on it: "Please be patient. He/she has Alzheimer's."

Those with Alzheimer's or other dementias might become easily frightened, confused or frustrated, resulting in inappropriate behaviors. Here are some suggestions to help employees alleviate these situations:

  • Approach the person slowly and from the front.
  • Treat the person with the dignity and respect you would want for a loved one or yourself
  • Make eye contact and speak slowly and calmly with a comforting voice, using short simple words. Offer one or two choices.
  • Allow the person enough time to respond.
  • Remain calm and keep a positive attitude.
  • Be patient, flexible and understanding.
  • Do not take things personally; the disease is typically causing the symptoms.
  • Avoid arguing with the person since that can escalate. If the person becomes argumentative, apologize and take the blame yourself, saying: "I'm sorry. I misunderstood. My mistake." And then try to move on.
  • Redirect the conversation.
  • Avoid embarrassing the person.

Resources for caregivers include:

  • Help forAlzheimersFamilies.com;
  • A book entitled "Confidence to Care: A Resource for Family Caregivers Providing Alzheimer's Disease or Other Dementias Care at Home" by Molly Carpenter; it comes with an app for your smartphone.
  • There are many videos with caregiving tips by Teepa Snow on YouTube.

September is Alzheimer's Awareness month. Please join us at the Walk to End Alzheimer's at The Promenade in Old Town Bluffton, starting at 10 a.m. Oct. 27.

Rachel Carson is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving The Lowcountry since 1997.

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