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Do you know how to interact with a loved one who has dementia?

Identifying the first signs of dementia in a loved one can be challenging. Often, these signs may go unrecognized even by professionals. Recognizing these early symptoms is crucial for adapting your approach and interactions effectively.

In this episode, Lizette discusses caregiving for individuals with dementia, focusing on adapted communication strategies and the importance of empathy.

She also emphasizes the impact of social isolation and offer solutions like day programs and respite care. Remember to avoid arguments, personalizing behaviors, and isolation.

Remember to share this episode to raise awareness and provide support for dementia caregivers.

1:35 Faith-Based Dementia Care
2:27 Understanding Strange Behavior
4:22 Introduction to Dementia Coaching
5:41 Never Argue or Reason
16:41 Never Take It Personally
24:51 Avoid Isolating Oneself
34:48 Recap: Never Argue or Reason
35:12 Recap: Never Take It Personally
35:32 Recap: Never Isolate Oneself

Effective Communication Strategies

Understanding how to communicate with someone who has dementia is vital. Avoid reasoning or arguing with them due to their cognitive impairments. Instead, aim to create a calming and supportive environment. Validate their feelings and experiences rather than confronting their misconceptions.

The Power of a Gentle Approach

The way we respond to unusual behaviors can significantly impact the well-being of someone with dementia. A gentle response can soothe and prevent further distress, while harsh or rational arguments may only exacerbate confusion and anxiety.


Dealing with dementia requires patience, understanding, and a gentle hand. By recognizing early signs and adapting our communication strategies, we can provide better care and support. Remember, it's not about winning arguments but about making our loved ones feel safe and loved.

Read More:

Walking By Faith: One Christian Caregivers Dementia Care Journey

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Recognizing Early Signs

[0:00] Can you trace back now that you know that the person that you are helping has some form of cognitive loss or dementia?
Can you trace back and recognize what one of the earliest signs that they might have had related to their cognitive changes?
Listen to today's episode 110, what are three things to never do with your loved one with dementia and hear what was or what is one of the first signs of a person living with dementia and those changes that come early on that we often don't recognize.
And you will hear my story about my mom and her first signs and symptoms that I, as a 30-year professional, did not recognize either.

Coping with Dementia Diagnosis

[1:01] Have you recently found out someone you love has dementia?
Struggling to wrap your head around how to be a Christian caregiver?
Searching for answers by joining countless Facebook groups but find them toxic?
Learning how to cope with dementia feels difficult, but learning a Christian caregiving worldview can be easy.
Hey, brother and sister in Christ, I'm Lizette, occupational therapist,

Faith-Based Dementia Care

[1:31] pastor's wife, turned dementia coach, and a daughter of dementia.
In this podcast, you will learn the truth that the way to make dementia care easy is your faith.
Knowing that a loving God has decreed this hard providence in your life makes all the difference.
Here you will gain skills.
You will be challenged by what God says in his word about caregiving, and you will learn exactly what dementia is and is not.
Find clarity and certainty from God's Word so you have perseverance for this journey.
Use science-backed solutions and biblical principles to redeem your time.
Praying this blesses you as we dive into dementia from a Christian perspective.
Let's glorify God despite dementia.

Understanding Strange Behavior

[2:28] Have you ever wondered why sometimes the person that you care for or love that has dementia says and does some really, really strange things that has you scratching your head wondering where on earth did that come from?
One day, my husband and I were visiting my mom and dad and my mom had a terrible rash on her right arm and.

[2:59] I was trying to look at it and see what we needed to do if we needed to get her in to see the dermatologist or what kind of help I needed to offer her.
But the thing that she said to me that day that really had me scratching my head was that she believed that fleas, you know, those little things that jump around on cats and dogs had been falling out of the ceiling onto her arm, and that is what caused the rash.

[3:34] Now, you and I both know that that story is not at all true.
But why am I telling you that story today?
Because my husband and I responded one way to my mother, and my dad responded a totally different way to my mother and this particular situation.
And one of them made things worse and one of them made things better.
So today's episode 110, we are going to talk about what are three things to never do with your loved one who is living with dementia.
I am very excited to announce this next part of our journey together.

Introduction to Dementia Coaching

[4:23] Once a month, on a Thursday evening, I'm going to do a segment called Ask the Dementia Coach, where you can actually come into a coaching session with me and other people if they register for the same time.

[4:42] Music.
on your own and may feel like you're at the end of your rope.
And in order to help serve you better, I wanted to open up this opportunity once a month for you to register for a free Ask the Dementia Coach segment.
Like I said, it will be Thursday evenings, once a month, six o'clock Eastern time in the evening, and the segment is called Ask the Dementia Coach.
So if you're interested in signing up for that, The link will be in the show notes below, and I look forward to seeing you on one of these special sessions.

[4:42] So you can feel what it feels like to actually have dementia coaching.
The reason I'm doing this is because I know so many of you guys are struggling

Never Argue or Reason

[5:41] The first one is, and hopefully this one will be, you know, obvious off of the story of the flea or fleas falling out of the ceiling, is never argue or reason with your loved one who has dementia.
Dementia now why do I say that because when you were helping somebody or when you were working with someone or you have a person who has actual physical changes to the brain even though you and I cannot see them immediately when you start to work with a person or help a person like that you have to stop trying to reason or argue with them because there's actual physical damage to the brain.

[6:35] So I'll use this as an analogy. Most of us have been around a person who has had, you know, a bicipital tear, a rupture in their tendon in their biceps, right?
The Popeye muscle, You know, where it pulls off the bone, and it makes a little pop-eye muscle right there by your elbow, and the result can be that you physically cannot do the task anymore because it's pulled off. It pulled off of the bone, right?
So a lever, a lever arm. We all understand that if there isn't a lever arm to move something, then mechanically it cannot occur.
That's just logical.
When a person is having physical changes to their.

[7:34] They lose over time and very quickly, they lose the ability to reason through things the way you and I reason through things.
And early on, when a person is newly diagnosed or when we newly notice things going on, it is very easy to fall into that trap of trying to reason through the why behind the what.
Why I'm saying, mom, it's not logical that fleas are falling out of the ceiling.

[8:11] And so it's very easy to then want to try to reason through all of these different types of situations.
Mom, you're not safe to drive anymore. And why are you not safe to drive?
Well, you're not responding fast enough, or you're getting lost when you're driving.
All of these types of reasoning type of activities, trying to reason with a person who has a change in their brain is not going to get you very far.
So one of the big things and one of the biggest challenges for people, especially early on, is that because the person still has some ability to problem solve, we try to reason with them.
And so what I try to teach people when we do dementia coaching is that I recognize that a couple of steps down the road, you are not going to be able to to logically reason through and get them on the same page with you.

[9:20] The strategy that I train people on right from the beginning is to ask better questions, to encourage a dialogue, related to, well, tell me more about that, as opposed to trying to argue or reason with the person living with dementia.

[9:43] Think about Proverbs 22, verse 6, where it says, train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he grows old, he will not depart from it.
Now, why is that verse, even though we're not training up a child, appropriate in this situation?
It's because I'm training you as a family caregiver of a person not to get into a habit of trying to reason with the person or argue with the person who you love who has dementia.
Another verse is that oftentimes something that happens very frequently when you are trying to reason with a person living with dementia is you'll end up in an argument because they truly believe whatever thing that is in their head, even though it is totally illogical.
So when you're, then what happens is that you start to argue.
No, mom, there aren't fleas coming from the ceiling, but there are, Lizette, right?
So you end up in this argument, which is exactly what happened with my dad.
My dad was trying to reason through this with my mom that it isn't a logical thing to believe that there are fleas falling out of the ceiling onto her arm causing this rash.

[11:11] And my husband and I took the opposite approach and just tried to validate that she had a rash on her arms and that we needed to do something thing about the rash, but not trying to logically reason through the fact that there were not fleas falling off of the ceiling.
So another good verse to keep in mind when we are talking about arguing or reasoning with a person living with dementia is Proverbs 15 verse 1 that speaks about a gentle.

[11:44] Answer, turning away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger, right?
So when we're arguing with the person who has lost the ability to reason, we are stirring up anger for them, which is one of the things that I teach people in our coaching sessions is that the person living with dementia, they will mirror frequently your own, they lose the ability to control their own emotions.
And so they will mirror your emotions. So when you start to argue with the person, guess what you're going to get back?
You're going to get back anger. So a gentle answer, a gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.
And this was the, the biggest things that I did differently with my mom versus my dad, because right at the beginning of our journey with my mom.

[12:46] I did not recognize that my mom was having changes in her thinking processes.
And so right at the beginning of her journey in changing, I did actually argue with And it resulted in a lot of negative feedback loops and negative things occurring with her, including anxiety, because my mom would repeat things and she would tell me the same story.
And I would say stupid stuff, which I 100% admit I did a lot of stupid things with my mom, was a little more aware with my dad.
But one of the things I constantly said to my mom was, but mom, you've told me that, or we've already talked about that, or, you know, just don't you remember those kinds of things?
Well, inevitably, what I've recognized now is that frequently we, as the family caregivers of a person living with dementia, will actually cause their anxiety and their anger because we are not recognizing these changes early on.

[13:59] So a practical tip for today is to ask questions.
So, well, the fleas are falling out of the ceiling, Lizette.
Well, mom, why don't you tell me a little bit more about that?
What makes you think that?
Or, well, mom, can you tell me a little bit more about whether, you know, just tell me about it.

[14:21] And just ask questions and see what the person comes up with and validate their emotions behind it.
So, for example, my mom saying the fleas are falling out of the ceiling.
I could say something like, well, mom, that must make you very frustrated or that certainly might make you feel itchy. Are you itchy?
To give, to validate her emotions, but not to try to reason with her and say, no, there aren't fleas falling out of the ceiling.
And then redirect her, not a hard turn redirect, but try to get the, you know, if you're going down the highway at 100 miles an hour and you try to do a U-turn at that speed, you're going to crash and burn, right?
So you have to slowly slow down and turn the car around.

[15:20] The same thing with redirection. If the person's barreling down one direction and you try to rapidly turn and redirect them, you're going to precipitate a possible reaction too.
You want to slowly turn the boat around.
You want to slowly, slowly move the conversation to something else, not a sudden turn.
So those are a couple of practical tips for never arguing or reasoning with your loved one who has actual physical changes to their brain.

[15:58] Did you know that caring for a person with dementia doesn't have to be this hard?

[16:06] If you are struggling and you would like to join our next free workshop, I invite you to walk away with science-backed dementia caregiving skills that many professionals don't even know after attending this free workshop.
If you'd like to register, message me the word workshop on Instagram or check out the link in the show notes below.

Never Take It Personally

[16:42] The second point for today is to to never, ever, and this is extremely difficult, guys, and I recognize this.
This is hard for me. This is definitely something difficult for my husband, who has to learn these skills as well, since we are both the primary caregivers of my parents, is to never, ever, ever take it personally.
And like I said, this is an extremely difficult thing to do because it feels like they are doing this on purpose.

[17:21] So people living with dementia are not doing the things that they are doing on purpose.
Even though it feels like it to you, they are not on purpose trying to make your life difficult for you.
Let me tell you about my mom's first signs of changes when she started to develop or started to have these changes.
It took me a little bit of time to recognize it, and that's frequently what happens.
So don't feel bad that you might not have recognized early signs or early changes because I have 30 years of experience in working with people with cognitive loss and I missed the early signs that my mom had.
And what was that early sign that I now can trace back to being the start of our journey was changes in her personality.

[18:24] So I've mentioned this several Several times, if you've listened to any of my workshops or maybe listened to other episodes, my parents were diplomats for the South African government growing up.
So they lived a very high social expectation lifestyle.
They went to cocktail parties. They attended the Nobel Peace Prize in Sweden when they were living there.
My dad was a consul general in Rio de Janeiro. So he, you know, they had lots of.

[18:59] Date dinners and things like that, that they attended. So my parents had very high social graces and ability to mingle with people from all sorts of backgrounds.
And one of the very early signs that I should have picked up on that I didn't, and I can't, you know, kick myself in the backside because of it, is that my mom had a change in her personality. How did it come out?
It came out when we actually went to church with her one time.
We took her to, you know, a Christmas or an Easter service or whatever.

[19:37] And somebody came up to her and tried to shake her hand.
And she pulled her arms back and closed her arms, you know, folded her arms in front of her and said to the person, I don't touch other people.
Well, that was a very sudden change.
And I remember thinking, I recall thinking, that's kind of odd.
I wonder what's going on, you know, and but, you know, it was one of those fleeting thoughts that I just never thought about it again. And then I started to notice slowly over time that it was happening more and more and more.
Every single place where she went to be introduced to other people, she just folded her arms and said, I don't touch other people.

[20:19] And that was the very, very, very, very early sign of a change that my mom had related to her changes in her thinking processes was this change in her personality.
Personality and I you know remember that that a lot of times you know people would take it personally when she would do that it was difficult for me because I felt like why are you being so rude mom you know all of these thoughts going through through my head but now I realize that I should never have taken it personally because she wasn't doing this on purpose she wasn't thinking through it.
It was just a change in her brain, and it is some form of her trying to protect herself.

[21:12] I'm never going to understand that. I'm never going to totally fully know why she did what she did or what the reasons behind it is, but the reality of the matter is don't take these changes personally, and I recognize that it is difficult because we all have.

[21:33] Stories in our life, patterns of communicating with one another that span decades, right?
I'm 54 years old this year, and the way I communicate with my parents is a 54-year pattern.
My husband and I have been married for 31 years.
We have a 31-year pattern of communicating with one another, And so it will be very easy, it could be very easy to take these changes personally, but never, ever take them personally.

[22:09] One of the hardest skills to learn as a family caregiver of a person living with dementia is that you are the only one in the relationship, in the conversation.

[22:23] In the situation that is able to change.
The person living with dementia is not able to change.
And that can be a hard realization because it feels extremely one-sided, right?
Like, why do I have to be the one to change? Well, you have to be the one to change, Lizette, speaking to myself, because that person has real physical changes, real miswiring, cross wires in their brain that result in them not being able to do it.
And Ephesians 4 verse 32 talks about being kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.
So when you take it personally, it results in you harboring resentment towards them because they don't have any control over their behavior.
And as a Christian, I recognize that that is a very challenging place for us to be because we are mandated, we are told to confess our sins, right?
And so frequently when we are helping somebody living with dementia.

[23:47] They are going to sin against you because they have or they are in the process of losing the ability to recognize these changes or these sins or these relationship changes that they are, in essence, causing.
Causing but it's not because they are doing it on purpose and so that is something that I really want you to to sit in for for a minute and not take it personally and even though they cannot necessarily ask you for forgiveness anymore you know early on in the process you could maybe say hey honey you've sinned against me but, as this journey unfolds, they're going to lose that ability to say to you, will you forgive me?
And it is up to us to recognize that they're not doing it on purpose and to

Avoid Isolating Oneself

[24:46] be willing to forgive them in any case, just as Christ has forgiven us.

[24:51] So a practical tip related to this is if you are struggling through those relationship changes, because they are changes in your relationship, especially when you are a spouse of somebody living with dementia or a child of somebody living with dementia.
It can be challenging to unpack those changes in your relationship, those changes in how to communicate with one another.
And doing dementia Dementia coaching can be a way for you to at least learn to start to do things a little bit differently.
So I have started a new segment that every month I am doing a free coaching session for you as a family caregiver helping somebody living with dementia.
And the first one was yesterday, which was April the 25th.
The next one will be in May, and it will be May the 23rd.
So sign up or register for a free dementia coaching session.
If you are struggling with taking this personally, I would love to help you through this process.

[26:17] And so you do need to register for the session so that you can get the information on how we can connect.
But do register and hop into a call and we'll spend about 15-20 minutes unpacking your specific situation and I'll help you through how to not take this personally.
The third thing, and this is something I see so frequently, is never isolate yourself or your loved one.
And that is so easy to do. I reflect back on this all the time.
And this is a tough conversation because I think about the two years that we were dealing with COVID and how impactful that was on my own parents, even though at that point they weren't.

[27:09] Diagnosed with any mild cognitive impairment or anything like that, it was significantly impactful on them because of the social isolation.
It totally changed my mom's world. It totally changed my dad's world.
They were isolated from other people.
They stopped going out. They stopped going to the symphony. They stopped seeing their friends.
And it significantly significantly impacted not only their cognition, but also their quality of life.
And then I'll also reflect a lot back on the two years of the COVID pandemic related to people who were in facilities, because I think so many people, and I don't think there's ever going to be a way we will ever know exactly what the numbers are, but I believe a lot of people living with dementia in facilities.

[28:11] Died directly as a result of social isolation.
So the third point for today is do not isolate yourself or your loved one.
Social isolation is significantly impactful both on the person who who is the family caregiver, but also on the person living with dementia.
We are created as social beings.
God is in a relationship with us, and God is triune in his relationships with God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
They are in relationship with one another, other, and we have been created in the image of God to be social creatures.
We are designed to relate to one another.
And so when, as a family caregiver, specifically a spouse, when we are isolated because we are.

[29:11] 100% the family caregiver of somebody who is needing our help, it does a lot of things for us.
It impacts our own health and well-being. It impacts your own thinking processes.
It will increase your anxiety and your own depression.
It will also increase your frustration because because you will feel like you have no support.
And so it is vitally important for you as a family caregiver not to be isolated.

[29:45] But what are some of the risks related to social isolation for a person living with dementia?

[29:54] It is extremely harmful to their thinking processes.
It is extremely impactful to their own wealth, well-being, and because as a family caregiver, you are becoming more and more stressed, it will actually impact their quality of life.
Hebrews 10 verses 24 through 25 says, And let's consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, not abandoning our meeting together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as the day draw nears.
Now, I recognize that this is a very difficult thing sometimes for families who are helping somebody living with dementia, but I believe that we need to continue to go to worship.
I believe that we need to try to go to Bible studies and those kinds of things, and I really believe we need to draw in the church to help us so that we can do that as a family caregiver.
But other ways to not isolate yourself or your loved one is depending on the level of ability that your loved one has.

[31:16] An adult day program is a very good solution to a lot of different people because it offers the person who is living with dementia social engagement in an appropriate setting for them.
And so I really want to encourage you to explore an adult day program.
Look at respite programs in your geographic area.
These are all great things to include in your program.

[31:48] As a practical tip for or solution to this particular problem of feeling isolated or isolating yourself.
But another strategy that I'd like you to consider is consider joining a program.

[32:04] And a coaching program can be very different than just a support group.
If you can, then most assuredly you should be involved in a support group.
But even one step better than a support group, which has its pros and its cons, just like everything, is a group coaching program.
The benefit of a group coaching program is that you will be in a community of caregivers that have all sorts of different family members, not just spouses or children, but, you know, siblings and grandchildren and all different family caregivers, because everybody brings something different to the table.
It gives you the ability to, if you join my program, have your entire family, your entire family circle can join all at the same time and get the same information in support.
It provides you with ongoing access. The Alzheimer's Association has done a lot of research related to what are some of the factors that truly, truly successful.

[33:20] Family caregivers have in place in order to be successful family caregivers.
And one of them is support over a long period of time, not one and done, not intervention here and then nothing again for six months, but actually having constant ongoing access to somebody to help you with the ongoing changes.
And one of the big things that I've noticed that makes somebody a successful caregiver is being able to anticipate and manage these ongoing changes.
The group low cost group coaching program allows you the ability to come and go.

[34:02] As you need to, we give you multiple options of times that you can join, and then you can always, always listen to them afterwards.
It's entirely accessible from the cell phone.
And low-cost group coaching that I have put together always comes from a biblical perspective.
So it gives you not only the practical solutions to dementia caregiving problems, but also framed them from a biblical perspective or from a Christian's perspective.
So what are the three things that you are never to do with your loved one with dementia?

Recap: Never Argue or Reason

[34:40] To recap today's episode, the first one is never ever argue or reason with your loved one.
It is counterproductive. All it will do is frustrate you. It'll frustrate the person that you are helping.
The second thing is never ever, and this is truly one of the hardest things, and I recognize that because I live it, I feel it, it is very easy to fall into this trap,

Recap: Never Take It Personally

[35:07] and that is to never, ever take what they are doing or saying personally.
They are not doing it on purpose. And then the third part of this episode is to never, ever isolate yourself or your loved one.
Social isolation is extremely detrimental to to both your health.

Recap: Never Isolate Oneself

[35:29] As well as the health of the person that you are helping.
So I hope today's episode gave you some practical tips and solutions on what not to do with the person that you love who is living with dementia.
I hope you have found benefit to this. And if you have, I ask you if you would please like, subscribe, and share this episode with somebody in your church who might be helping another person living with dementia.

[36:00] I am very much in awe of everyone on this journey with me together and I want to serve and serve you deeply.
This is the way people can get to know me. I would love for you to subscribe to the podcast.
My goal for this year is to grow the podcast, to be able to serve more people.
So if you like and subscribe and share the podcast, you help me in my journey so that I can reach more people.
And as I end all of my broadcasts, may the Lord bless you and keep you.
And I really sincerely hope you realize that I pray for all family caregivers of people living with dementia every single day, and that the Lord will sustain you in this journey.
It is a challenging journey, but without his help, I don't know how I could do it.
So I will see you guys in the next episode.

[37:06] Thanks for joining me today, Success Seeker. I pour my heart and soul into this program to serve you.
You can serve me by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. and join our free Facebook group, Dementia Caregiving for Families.
It's a positive and proactive space to navigate dementia caregiving together.
Get practical tools and find support, but without the verbal vomit.
Be a part of our community where we seek to find peace of mind and ease, despite the dementia diagnosis. So join today and see you next time as our flight takes off.

Subscribe To Dementia Caregiving For Families Podcast

If you feel like dementia caregiving is hard and unpredictable and you are struggling to help a spouse or a parent living with dementia, join our next free workshop.

Join our Facebook Group at: 

Become a  Member of Our Exclusive Program!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

About the author

“Think Different” Dementia’s owner, Lizette Cloete, OTR/L graduated as an Occupational Therapist from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1992. Lizette has almost 30 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist in a variety of settings, the latest being in the home health environment. She enjoys teaching on the topic of dementia, most recently presenting at a national conference on the topic “Dementia Made Simple”.

Disclaimer: These blogs, videos and any work done by Lizette Cloete OT, as a Member of Think Different Dementia, LLC, is given only as educational content and consulting work. This does not create an Occupational Therapist-Patient Relationship. The educational content and consulting work performed should not be considered medical treatment as an Occupational Therapist. The consulting work does not take the place of medical work normally performed by a licensed Occupational Therapist. Please consult a licensed Occupational Therapist for medical advice.

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