In an emergency situation an individual living with dementia is likely to be anxious and disorientated.
- Stop, look and listen and assess the situation.
- Approach slowly from the front, leaving a 1 metre space between yourself and the person.
- Be mindful that as dementia progresses vision can become significantly impaired so you need to get into their visual field. For those without hearing loss, hearing can be accentuated so shouting and loud noises can be frightening.
- Get to their level to make eye contact.
- Say hello and use their name if known.
- Introduce yourself in a warm and friendly manner. Use a calm tone.
- People with dementia understand visual cues rather than words. Therefore use visual cues to help them understand.
As dementia progresses the individual’s ability to communicate deteriorates. In the earlier stages words may get muddled but the main meaning will be clear. Later on it becomes more difficult to understand the message but understanding the emotion behind the message can help.
- Anger/aggression – they feel threatened or may be in pain.
- Sad/crying – they may feel insecure and frightened or may be in pain.
- Scared – they feel frightened and may try to get away from something.
- Anxious – they feel disorientated and confused.
- Sexual gestures – they are looking for intimacy e.g. a cuddle.
The guiding hand will help you instil trust and guide or move a person with dementia.
- Shake the person’s hand.
- Gently slide your fingers upwards around their thumb.
- Move to their right side and place your spare arm around their back.
- You can then move and guide the person in a calm and gentle manner.
- The guiding hand technique can also be used to assist a person into a vehicle.