Dementia not only affects the person with the condition, it affects all relationships in the person’s life. There are stresses in trying to maintain a normal routine, while coping with the day-to-day challenges the person with dementia presents. A great burden for support falls on you, the Direct Support Professional (DSP). Understanding the disease, its progression, and what the person’s future needs may be is important for DSPs in order to cope.
Throughout the course of the condition, DSPs are likely to experience anger and frustration directed at the person, themselves, team members, or the system itself. It all depends on the day and circumstances. Know that you are not alone in feeling anger. It is important to talk to and get support from trusted coworkers and supervisors concerning your frustrations and try to seek assistance. Remember, challenging behaviors the person displays are the dementia, not the person. Confusion and distress the person feels are pushing the actions and behaviors you see. The person with dementia has a different view of the world around them. They may be easily frightened or confused by it. People who have intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) may have had some challenging behaviors before the onset of dementia. These may intensify with dementia.
Talk to staff who know the person with dementia well and identify something positive and interesting about them. Focus on remembering that when working with the person. The more you disagree or get frustrated with someone with dementia, the harder you need to work to put yourself in their shoes. It can be helpful to think about one of your family members in the situation. How you would want a DSP to approach your mom, dad, or other family member with dementia? Approach the person without an agenda, without prejudice, and without assuming a battle will ensue. Don’t force them to follow your agenda or a routine. For example, if it is dinner time, and you ask the person to come to the dining room to eat and they decline. Remind yourself that they may be frightened. They may no longer understand what you are requesting of them. When you find yourself in such a situation, try these general approaches when working with someone with dementia —
Importantly, take care of yourself! Here are some tips —
The article was adapted and reprinted with permission from S. VanLare, (2018). Health tips: Dealing with personal stress, guilt, and anger when supporting people with dementia. Rochester, NY: The Arc of Monroe.