We are generally advised to apply our own oxygen mask before assisting others during an emergency on a flight. This ensures our own safety and well-being. Some say this seems selfish. Yet without caring for ourselves, how can we care for others? Similarly, dementia caregivers often neglect their own needs for the sake of the person in their care. This reduces the quality of life for both the patient and caregiver. The variety of behaviors that accompany this disease can be heartbreaking and even frightening. Geriatric psychiatrist Helen Kales and her team at the Program for Positive Aging are redefining how dementia caregivers provide care. Because they know that good care begins with caregivers.

Kate Sieloff’s husband Karl was diagnosed with dementia. He had a variety of behavioral symptoms. They ranged from mood swings, aggression, depression and more. She had no idea where to turn. Fortunately, she discovered Helen Kales. She is the founder of the Program for Positive Aging. In this NPR article, Kales states that the difficulty lies not only in the memory loss component. The behavioral aspects are just as or more difficult to manage.

Dementia is a tricky disease to treat. Due to this, medications are typically prescribed to just control symptoms. Anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers, and sleeping aids are commonly used to control symptoms. However, many caregivers automatically give patients medication for certain behaviors. In this case, you may be missing important pieces of information about their experience.

Luckily, the Program for Positive Aging aims to help. Helen Kales developed the DICE method. Caregivers should describe a behavior and investigate its possible causes. They also create and implement a plan to address the behavior and evaluate results. This structured and objective method helps caregivers with the variety of dementia symptoms. According to this method, it begins with the caregiver.

Kales took research on dementia and turned it into a step by step approach. As a result, caregivers and patients alike benefit from this unique way of managing dementia. The DICE method has been proven to reduce stress. But above all, they are given the confidence that they can manage the ups and downs of dementia.