Developed by Virginia Bell and David Troxel in the 1990s, the Best Friends Approach aims to nurture connection and respect in relationships. It is founded on the notion that what someone with dementia needs most is a best friend figure – someone who remains loving, empathizes with them, and promotes their dignity. Here are some ways you can incorporate strategies from this approach when speaking to your loved ones, helping them feel safe, calm, and loved.
Understand Things From Their Perspective
Reading up on your loved one’s particular condition can help you to understand why they behave or speak the way they do, whether it is Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. It can also prepare you on how to deal with possible sundowning symptoms and other calls for patience and assistance. Through researching how dementia can damage cognitive and conversational abilities, you can better practice empathy to help you meet them where they are.
Remembering Cherished Memories
Knowing a person’s life story can be a particularly intimate thing. An important part of the Best Friends Approach is helping your loved ones remember cherished memories of joy and success. This can be especially helpful in moments of struggle and frustration at their condition. You can use what you know about their hobbies and interests to help them feel connected to you, for example, asking your loved one who loves to bake help us with a blueberry pie.
Avoiding Constant Correcting
One of the most common symptoms of dementia is forgetfulness, and it can be common for them to say the wrong name or year, repeat the same questions, or mix up details. Even for people with healthy cognitive abilities, constant correction can be really frustrating. For those with dementia, this can induce greater fear and confusion, which can worsen their condition further.
Involving Them in Decision-making
Keep your loved ones engaged in their life by involving them in decision-making, no matter how big or small. It can help them retain a strong sense of agency and empowerment. Everyone likes to feel they are appreciated, and one way to do so is to show you value their opinion in your decision. Especially on serious matters when the final say does lie with you, ask how they feel about your views, and make sure there is open communication of your feelings together.
You can also invite them to make their own decisions. Remember to keep it simple as they may get overwhelmed with details. Present them with just a few options, for example, ask them whether they want to wear the blue or the yellow shirt, or whether they want to eat an apple or a pear.
Laughing and doing an activity together relieves stress and strengthens your connection with your loved ones. The Celebrations Activities and Events program at Rittenhouse Village At Lehigh Valley offers residents a plethora of fun-filled activities such as themed parties and exercise classes. We also provide our SHINE® Memory Care program, which is nationally recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association®. To learn more about our senior living programs, contact us today.