How do you make a parent’s birthday special? Maybe Mom or Dad has their favorite breakfast in bed. Maybe there’s a special card, gift or places to go together. Everything is meant to say “You’re important to me, I know what makes you happy and I love you.” This is communicated through the choices made: Mom’s favorite coffee. A shirt for Dad in his favorite color. Specially chosen sights and sounds that hit them right in their “Ahhhhh!” spots as we try to make them feel happy and honored.
Respecting the personal preferences of someone living with dementia is very similar. It shows them we love, respect and honor them. It communicates they are worth making happy. Showing respect for their personal preferences helps many people with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia feel and act more peaceful, upbeat and contented. And, whether or not they remember the specifics of what made them feel this way, they will associate their upbeat feelings with anyone connected with them. In other words: If you respect their preferences, they will feel more positive about you and will cooperate more.
Respecting personal preferences also lets a person with dementia know that you really know them, even if they cannot consistently remember who you are. Only someone who really knows and cares about them would bother getting their personal preferences right. It will make them feel safer to be with someone who respects their preferences because they know they’re with a friend.
People with dementia must live with their symptoms along with starkly changed abilities and relationships. Bringing pleasures that fit right in their “Ahhhhh!” spots makes them feel happy and honored, and they will associate these positives with you. This will inevitably make your relationship better and make caring for them easier and more enjoyable.