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Care4Elders Columnist Susan Berg
Susan Berg
Certified Dementia Practioner

How to have the Best Possible Relationship with Those who have Dementia (Part 2)

Just a note about an incident that recently happened at our nursing home that is sure to be beneficial to you. It demonstrates all four of the tips in part one, plus it talks about tips I am going to discuss in part three.

We have a resident who is declining cognitively. She often asks, Where am I? or What am I doing here?. We answer that she is here with us, and that we are about to have some fun. Often she forgets we told her this.

She used to love bingo. In fact sometimes she can still play without help, but sometimes she asks the above questions when we play and then proceeds to get quite angry probably because she, at that point in time, cannot remember how to play.

We do have a volunteer or staff member sit with her, when she is more confused, who kindly helps her out saying something like, I hope you will let me sit with you, which she has been agreeable to so far. She came to another activity the other day which was playing games on the WII. She got angry asking the above mentioned questions. The activity assistant mistakenly said to her, Why are you getting so angry? The resident said that she was not angry, but clearly she was. Thinking fast, I told her that I needed her help folding greeting cards. She has done this many times for me. I then distribute the cards to other residents. You could see that she was upset by the way she was folding the cards. However by the time she was done, she had calmed down. I thanked her profusely. She forgot about the games she did not understand, and she had a smile on her face.

Doing simple tasks is great because it makes the person with dementia feel useful. I like the card folding activity because it is easy to do, because you can actually distribute the cards to others, thus making their day, and because you can make cards for all sorts of occasions.

You can even have sections of the cards that can be colored, thus giving the original person with dementia something else to do. You can give the cards to another person with dementia, giving this person something useful to do. Remember no matter what kind of a job they do, be complimentary.

Another thought is that a person with dementia can fluctuate from day to day.

I have many suggestions for making simple cards for a person with dementia to fold. I can tell you how to modify this task to make it easier or harder. I can also share other simple tasks your loved one, client or resident may like to do. Just leave a message in the comment section of

Also I discussed how to make simple cards in the May/June Activity article Let's get back to more tips. As mentioned in part one, caring for someone with dementia, no matter what your relationship is, most likely will be difficult. Here are some more tips that will help you out.

Tip five

If you are a caregiver, join a support group even if it is online Go to Dementia Support Groups for some online support groups that might be helpful to you. It is probably best to go to a group in person. Understandably, that might be difficult especially if you are caring for a loved one with dementia at home.
Don't go through this alone.

You will find many caregivers are in a similar situation to yours. Talking about issues you face will, at the very least, make you feel better. You probably will get some good ideas as well.

If you are a professional that works at a facility, have your own support group. You will need one for family members and a separate one for your staff. Both groups of people, at the very least, need to let off some steam and de-stress. Both groups of people need to do this so they do not hurt a person with dementia or themselves.

This may be easier said than done. We recently started a family member support group. No one showed up for our first meeting. But we were persistent and scheduled another meeting personally inviting family members who we felt really needed to be there.

First we sent them an invitation by mail. Then a few days before the meeting we called them. The day of the meeting we called them again as a friendly reminder. Still the turnout was not great.

We kept at it. Now we get four or five family members coming. We would like more, but we understand, it is difficult for most family members to do.

If you would like any more tips on starting or running a successful support group leave a message in the comment section of a blog post at

We also have an informal support group for our staff.

Tip six

Take advantage of Adult Day Care. They are popping up all over the place. This gives you time to be away from the person who has dementia. There are a multitude of things you can do with this free time. You can also talk to other caregivers who may have loved ones who attend the program.

Another plus for your loved one is that they will be able to socialize with other people. Studies have shown that socializing delays decline in person with dementia. To read more about this, go to Why Socializing May Delay Dementia.

Also the center provides healthy meals, making sure that your loved one will eat at least some of it. In addition they provide appropriate activities that your loved one is sure to enjoy.

They usually have a support group as well. If they do not, then they can usually steer you in the right direction. This concludes part two. Please come back because I have more tips and stories to tell.

Susan Berg is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, experienced Activities Director, author, and educator.
Visit her website at: Susan Berg - Activities Director

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