How to Help a Person Continue to Feel Competent As Their Dementia Progresses
1. Remember that they may not realize how much has changed
2. Consider their role in the past
3. Break tasks into smaller pieces and use supportive communication
- Remember where to find the checkbook
- Remember where to find a pen
- Remember where you placed the bill
- Locate the correct due amount
- Remember where and how to write the recipient’s name
- Remember where to write the numerical dollar amount, and where to spell it out
- Remember to sign the check
- Find an envelope
- Find stamps
- Remember to put both the check and pay-stub into the envelope
- … and so forthWhile you and I may not have to consciously think through these steps on a normal day, a person who is living with dementia will have trouble sequencing all of these many, tiny steps. To help the person complete this task, try breaking it down into small bites, and offer your support on every step.In this example conversation below, Teepa helps mom pay a bill while offering her support throughout:
Teepa: Hey, mom, I have a question for you.
Mom: Oh, what's that?
Teepa: I'm wondering if you could help me out, because I know that you and dad made some arrangements to do some things after he passed, right? You guys talked about some things with the lawyer that you wanted to have happen.
Mom: Oh, he had a bunch of stuff written down. I don't know if I've looked at that lately.
Teepa: Yeah, there was a bunch of stuff. You're absolutely right. So, oh, I'm wondering, can we tackle one piece that I think you care a lot about? How about if we work on that one first?
Mom: Well, what's that?
Teepa: Well, you know, the checkbook. Because I know that you like to get things balanced out, right?
Mom: Oh, you gotta have the money.
Teepa: Yeah, you like to know you've got money here and money there. So, here's what I'm wondering. I gathered up a lot of the bills that I saw you had on the desk. I've got them all right here.
By realizing that the person may not have awareness of their changes, thinking through their past, and by breaking tasks into smaller pieces with respectful communication, you too can support your person living with dementia in the most effective and respectful way possible.