Dementia Care Expert Calls for More Communication Training for U.S. Dementia Caregivers Following U.K. Study

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Laura Wayman aims to improve relationships between dementia caregivers and patients

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The goal here is to properly train caregivers to not just know how to take care of a dementia patient physically, but to be able to find a flicker of hope in the care emotionally, and then repeat it until it comes through in positive interactions.

Recent research shows that a lack of understanding of dementia is causing relationships with caregivers and dementia patients to deteriorate.

Researchers from the University of Chichester in the U.K. conducted a study that included a survey with professional caregivers who care for people who have dementia and experienced a declining relationship with those patients. The study found that the typical behavioral changes that occur in a dementia patient – such as mood swings, difficulty eating, aggression, declining interpersonal skills, agitation and blame, just to name a few – lead to the caregiver feeling upset. Additionally, the study, which was published in the journal Dementia, found that most caregivers believe that more training is needed for them to understand how the disease impacts behaviors in order for them to achieve better relationships with those they care for.

Laura Wayman, a dementia care expert, professional speaker and author, is calling for more training for dementia caregivers around the world based on this research.

“As a society in general, and certainly across the U.S., we need to train our caregivers better to become more ‘dementia aware,’ which means to understand that we can’t stop, fix, or change dementia, but what we can do is reduce stigma and boost the number of positive interactions between the patient and caregiver,” said Wayman, who has made it her mission to deliver primary caregivers of people suffering from dementia symptoms with training and information that is relatable so they can understand the disease.

Wayman believes it is of the upmost importance that all caregivers understand exactly what is going on inside the mind of a dementia patient because when a patient acts out in a negative way that is out of character, they are more than likely trying to say something, but they don’t know another way to say it. Some of this is agitation caused by the inability to cope with pain, fatigue or stress.

“The key is to identify whether the behavior is related to a specific event, or whether it stems from a sudden or unusual environmental stimulation that causes an emotional outburst and then escalates into a combative flare up,” Wayman said. “The sooner we all work on this understanding the better because more than half of dementia caregivers become sick or pass away prior to the person they are caring for, and I think that is largely because of the relentless stress that comes with caring for a dementia patient and not completely understanding the behaviors they exhibit.”

Wayman offers these 10 tips to help professional and family caregivers better communicate with dementia patients:

  • As a caregiver, understand that the person with dementia will mirror feelings and moods. Therefore, the caregiver has the power to set the tone.
  • Find ways to share laughter with a dementia patient based on their interests.
  • Allow a dementia patient the time to share their emotions. This helps develop trust.
  • Try not to over-talk or reason, choose action instead.
  • Avoid asking too many questions.
  • Don't take what they say personally.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Help them maintain a unique identity by providing activities and interactions that bring a sense of joy and celebration.
  • When caregivers affirm the emotions that a person with dementia is experiencing, they will enjoy a better connection.
  • Show them patience, compassion and care.

“The goal here is to properly train caregivers to not just know how to take care of a dementia patient physically, but to be able to find a flicker of hope in the care emotionally, and then repeat it until it comes through in positive interactions. That is how we can start to have the type of relationships that caregivers are truly looking for,” Wayman said.

Wayman’s dementia care program is detailed in her book, A Loving Approach to Dementia Care. The book places an emphasis on affirmative responses, empowerment and proper communication. This helps transform the caregiving process from a negative experience to a rewarding journey.

To buy the second edition of A Loving Approach to Dementia Care, click here.

In addition, Wayman offers a free webinar, which caregivers can sign up for here.

For more information, and caregiver resources, visit laurawayman.com.

About Laura Wayman

Laura Wayman is the author of “A Loving Approach to Dementia Care,” (now in its second edition, a 36-Hour Day Book), published by Johns Hopkins University Press. She holds an Associate in Arts degree in gerontology and is a certified social services designee. She has more than a decade of experience in and a strong dedication to quality aging. She is a professional dementia care consultant, trainer, the CEO of The Dementia Whisperers and a speaker on dementia and issues of aging.

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