Monday, August 6, 2012

From Their Perspective: How Scary Dementia Can Be

The more trainings I take about caring for people with dementia and the more I really try to see the world from their eyes, I see how scary and unsettling life is for them. A very simple example of this is the Hoyer lift we now have for Mom.

A Hoyer lift is a large device with a sling attached to it that lifts a person who can not walk and allows you to transfer them. We had a few new caregivers at the house to help train them on how to use the Hoyer lift because it is very easy to get bruised or dropped in the lift if it is not used correctly. Dad and I let the caregivers practice transferring us in the lift. Let me tell you, it is pretty scary.

You sit there while the people around you communicate with each other checking to make sure they have the right colored loop on the right hook so you do not fall out of the lift. They were just about to lift me once when I noticed one side of the lift was not attached and I was able to tell them before they lifted me. I was imagining what it was like to be Mom and maybe see that the lift was not correct, but not be able to speak to tell them. How scary!
Dad in the Hoyer Lift

Then they lift you up and you are suspended and swinging in mid-air while the device rolls across the floor taking you to your new destination. Someone has to watch your forehead so it does not collide with the metal bar at the top of the lift and another person holds your legs so they do not swing and hit the metal pole that is the center of the lift. You would think you might feel like you are wrapped in a cocoon but you really feel like you are swinging from a crane like a fish caught in a net that could drop at any time.

I can see how this is terrifying for persons with dementia. No wonder many of them get agitated during transfers.

Here are a few tips that might make something like this easier:

1. Always tell the person exactly what you are doing at every moment. "Carol, we are going to move you from your chair to the bed. We are getting the lift ready. Now we are going to raise you up."

3. Each caregiver should check to make sure the other got all of the loops on the right hooks as a safety measure. Say out loud that everything has been checked so the person can hear you and feel a bit more safe. 

2. Reassure safety: "Carol, we are going to raise you up. The lift is safe and we are here for you."

No matter what, much of life is going to be scary for persons with dementia. Even if you think they cannot hear you or understand, they probably can, so the best thing to do is communicate a lot with them. Always tell them what is going on around them and what is happening next. And in every situation try to see it from their perspective in order to understand their needs better.


Rev. Katie


  1. Rev Katie, Thanks for taking the time to try to figure out and explain why even something that aids their care, might be scary to a person w. dementia. Some people think that those w dementia aren't aware enough of their environment to understand or feel anything anymore, but those of us who have loved ones w dementia know better.

  2. Your blog is awfully appealing. Your workshop is tremendous. I desire to be present there. I am contented with your post. I will visit you for more update. Thanks!

  3. Hi to every single one, it’s truly a good for me to visit this web page, it includes helpful Information.

  4. Wheelchairs come in so many designs and options these days. They have made life easier and more fulfilling, for many with a physical handicap or disability. However, they can also cause a lot of bodily harm from accidents, if great care and responsibility is not taken.

  5. Hi there, I read your blogs on a regular basis. Your humoristic style is witty, keep it up!

  6. Fine way of telling, and pleasant article to obtain facts about my presentation focus, which i am going to present in institution of higher education.