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How to Approach Persons with Dementia

This video clip shows how to approach a person with dementia so as to minimize anxiety and offer respect (time: 4 minutes 20 seconds).

The way in which people with dementia are approached is very important, as how they are approached will determine their reaction. While you may not think twice about coming up to a person from behind and putting your hands on their shoulders to say hello, doing so to someone with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Dementia with lewy body’s, or another dementia, is not a good idea. People with dementia lack impulse control, and approaching them unexpectedly from behind could anger or frighten them, eliciting a response that could cause emotional distress or aggression. Therefore, a positive physical approach should be taken with people who are suffering from dementia.

First, always make sure to approach an Alzheimer’s patient from the front, allowing him or her to see you as you come near. This way, the individual’s brain can process your approach. Bear in mind, this is if the dementia has not progressed to the point that the brain is no longer able to process this information, as the affect of dementia on the brain as the disease progresses is tremendous.

When approaching a dementia patient, take your time getting to him or her by walking slowly. Again, you want to give the individual’s brain time to process the information that you are coming towards him or her. If you come up too quickly, this may result in the individual trying to escape you or even pushing or grabbing you. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, approach the individual very slowly, taking one step per second.

Your stance, once you have reached the Alzheimer’s patient, should not be directly in front of the individual. This stance, also known as a confrontational stance, can elicit a negative response. Instead, stand an arm’s reach away and to the side of the individual, giving him or her the opportunity to look away from you if desired. This stance is called a supportive stance.

This video clip shows how to approach a person with dementia so as to minimize anxiety and offer respect (time: 4 minutes 20 seconds).

Learn the right way to approach someone with dementia to avoid frightening them or confrontation.