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10 top tips to help a person living with dementia in distress

Oomph Wellness in partnership with Kate Thubron

1. Know the person

Find out about the person’s life history. This may help in understanding what might cause moments of distress and ways that you can help them.

2. Knowledge of the brain

Gain further knowledge and understanding on the functions of the brain and how damage in certain areas may affect behavior. This will help in understanding why someone may be feeling distressed but also ways to help.

3. Remain calm

Try to remain calm. The person might say something upsetting to you when they are distressed. Take 5 to 10 seconds and think about what you’re going to say before you reply

4. Mind your tone

 Use a soothing and steady tone of voice

5. Look for any unmet needs

Look for any signs that they have a need that is not being fulfilled. For example, are they in pain?, Need something to eat? Need comfort or reassurance?

6. Provide validation

Reassure them that you are listening to them and that you are there to try and help

7. Be aware of the environment

Observe anything in the environment that could be causing any further distress. Minimise distractions.

8. Provide opportunities for meaningful engagement

Provide opportunities for the person to engage in an activity that is meaningful and enjoyable. After validating and listening to their feelings a shift in focus may help calm the person down.

9. Avoid labelling

Using words or phrases that label, stigmatise and depersonalise people can have a big impact on someone. It can change the way they feel about themselves, their feelings and self-esteem. Labelling can also cause the way they are treated. For example, if someone is labelled ‘aggressive’ it may cause approaches to care to be unintentionally confrontational. 

10. Gain support

Sometimes asking for help can provide a fresh and new perspective on what may be causing distress and how to help.  Do not be offended if a person prefers to be cared for by someone else in that moment in time.

For more information about Wellbeing Training and Oomph On Demand please contact

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