Thursday, November 28, 2013

Shifting focus: a guide to understanding dementia behaviour

Posted  by the Alzheimer Society of Ontario 

Here is a new resource designed specifically to help families and residents of long-term care facilities understand how some people with dementia may express themselves behaviourally and what to do when the behaviour happens.

They have two versions of shifting focus: a guide to understanding dementia behaviour.

The full version of shifting focus provides comprehensive information about understanding and responding to dementia behaviour, plus specific advice on how to visit someone with dementia in a long-term care facility and how to communicate with staff in a facility. This full version will be helpful to family members, friends, co-residents and staff in long-term care.
compact booklet version of shifting focus describes specific behaviours and gives advice on helpful responses to those behaviours. 

Both versions of shifting focus are available as pdf downloads on You can also order print copies of the compact booklet for distribution to your clients and their families. In addition, there is a slide deck that can be downloaded for use by your staff when introducing the long guide and booklet to Residents’ and Family Councils.

Here is an excerpt: especially for those visiting people with dementia.

Creating a meaningful visit 

As dementia progresses and responsive behaviours increase, visits become challenging. 
You may struggle to connect with her. Below are activities for you and your friend. Like the 
other tips, what works one day may not the next. Learn to observe (body language, tone of 
voice) and listen, even if he can no longer say words. Remember to be flexible and change 
strategies when necessary. 

 Familiarize yourself with the facility`s schedule and the person’s routine. When do they have lunch? When do they nap? For most, morning visits are better than evenings. 
 Visits between a half-hour and an hour are best, especially for those who tire easily. 
 Give a manicure, massage hands and feet with cream, wash and set hair, give a facial, shave or apply make-up. Such activities help the person to feel cared for. 
 Look at newspapers and magazines together, taking time to read and discuss items depending on his capacity and interest. 
 Help with phone calls, birthday cards and gifts. Try to let her participate. 
 Keep a family diary or visitor’s book in her room. Visitors can write notes, providing a social record. They can leave messages for each other or record observations. 
 Plant an herb garden in window sill pots. 
 Exercise together. 
 Create a sensory box organized by theme, like jewellery, cookbooks, spices, newspaper clippings, gardening, old family pictures, potpourri, fishing, farming, sewing, etc. 
 Go for a walk or drive. 
 Go for a favourite treat or bring one to her. 
 Look through family pictures. Be sure to say “tell me more” when he talks about a memory. 
 Read out loud. 
 Listen to music. 
 Make a scrapbook. 
 Draw maps of travels, home or garden to spark reminiscence. 
 Attend religious services. 
 Bring a child or pet along and just watch. 
 Eat in the dining room or outside to make him feel like the host. 
 Bring a bouquet of flowers and arrange them in a vase together. 

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