What is a Verbal Security Blanket in Dementia

As an occupational therapist working in a senior care facility, I have seen firsthand the impact that dementia can have on an individual’s ability to communicate and express their needs. One common phenomenon I have observed in my work is the use of a verbal security blanket by individuals with dementia.

What is a Verbal Security Blanket in Dementia

What is a Verbal Security Blanket in Dementia

A verbal security blanket is a word or phrase that an individual with dementia repeatedly repeats to cope with their surroundings and provide a sense of security and comfort. These phrases can range from simple statements like “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired,” to more complex phrases that may have personal significance to the individual.

In my experience, using a verbal security blanket is often a response to feelings of confusion, uncertainty, or anxiety that can arise due to the cognitive decline associated with dementia. It can be a way for the individual to feel more in control of their environment and communicate their needs to caregivers.

However, the repetitive nature of a verbal security blanket can be challenging for caregivers and can create frustration or stress for both the individual with dementia and their loved ones. As an occupational therapist, it is my role to help caregivers understand the function and purpose of a verbal security blanket and provide strategies for managing and coping with this phenomenon in a way that promotes the well-being and quality of life of the individual with dementia.

How to Identify a Verbal Security Blanket in a Loved One with Dementia

When caring for a loved one with dementia, it is important to be aware of the possibility that they may be using a verbal security blanket. Identifying a verbal security blanket can help you understand and respond to your loved one’s needs and provide them with the support and comfort they need.

Here are some common signs and behaviors that may indicate the use of a verbal security blanket in a loved one with dementia:

  • Repeating the same word or phrase over and over again: This is the most obvious sign of a verbal security blanket. It may be a verbal security blanket if your loved one repeatedly says the same thing, even in response to different questions or prompts.
  • Struggling to communicate or express their needs: If your loved one is having difficulty expressing their needs or wants, using a verbal security blanket may be a way for them to communicate what they need or want.
  • Expressing anxiety or confusion: A verbal security blanket can be a way for your loved one to cope with feelings of anxiety or confusion. Notice that your loved one is expressing more anxiety or confusion than usual. It may be worth considering whether they use a verbal security blanket as a coping mechanism.

If you suspect your loved one is using a verbal security blanket, it is important to approach the situation with patience and understanding. Try to understand the context and meaning of the phrase for your loved one, and respond in a supportive and comforting way. It may also be helpful to seek the guidance of a healthcare professional, such as an occupational therapist, for further support and strategies for managing the use of a verbal security blanket.

Managing and Coping with a Verbal Security Blanket in Dementia

Here are some strategies for managing and coping with a verbal security blanket in dementia:

  • Respond with patience and understanding: It can be frustrating to hear the same phrase repeatedly, but it is vital to approach the situation with patience and understanding. Remember that your loved one uses a verbal security blanket to cope with their dementia and express their needs.
  • Try to understand the context and meaning of the phrase: It may be helpful to understand the context and meaning of the verbal security blanket for your loved one. This can help you respond in a way that is supportive and comforting. For example, if your loved one is saying “I’m hungry,” you may be able to provide them with a snack to address their need.
  • Use distraction and redirection: If your loved one is repeating a verbal security blanket excessively, it may be helpful to try to distract or redirect their attention to another activity or topic. This can help break the repetitive pattern and provide variety and stimulation.
  • Seek the guidance of a healthcare professional: If you are struggling to manage or cope with your loved one’s use of a verbal security blanket, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of a healthcare professional, such as an occupational therapist. They can provide additional support and strategies for managing the use of a verbal security blanket and improving the well-being and quality of life of your loved one.

It is important to remember that managing and coping with a verbal security blanket in dementia requires patience and understanding. By finding strategies that work for you and your loved one, you can provide them with the support and comfort they need while also promoting their overall well-being.

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