Caring for a loved one with dementia may seem daunting for many families. When you have no clue what dementia care is, you will feel nervous, anxious, stressed out, and afraid, but don’t fret because it is normal to feel this way. Even professional caregivers can find it taxing to attend to their dementia patients. After all, people diagnosed with dementia, whether it’s Alzheimer’s or other related issues, have a progressive biological brain condition. That’s a tough reality for anyone to accept.
Hence, you must prepare yourself for the challenges that lie ahead. Whether you’re a family member or a professional caregiver, you must keep in mind that an elderly with dementia needs patience. It is difficult for someone with dementia to think, remember, and communicate with others. They may even forget to care for themselves. Elderly folks suffering from dementia can be moody and cranky. In the worst-cases, it can even change the personality of your once sweet senior. How can you handle this situation when you’re not a trained medical professional?
Remember, the right attitude is critical for successful care. Learning more about the diagnosis can help you understand your elderly loved one. It also allows you to set realistic expectations and retain control as the caregiver. When you know what pitfalls and challenges to expect, you can plan ahead and take the sting out of your new responsibilities. Furthermore, the right mind frame assures you to retain a more positive attitude despite this harsh prognosis. Here are some vital things you must consider when caring for an elderly loved one with dementia.
Do Work On Communication Skills to Foster Better Interactions
Keep in mind, communicating with a person with dementia takes effort. But it is something that you can readily learn. With proper communication, you can make caregiving less stressful. Furthermore, you can anticipate a better relationship. Expressing yourself properly will help manage any difficult behavior or attitudes that you may encounter. Try the following techniques:
1. Establish a positive mood
More than words, your body language can convey your inner thoughts and feelings. Hence, strive hard to establish a positive mood to ensure a good interaction. Your tone of voice and facial expressions must always be pleasant, cordial, and respectful.
2. Work on getting the right attention
Before you speak, make sure you have the person’s undivided attention. Turn off all distractions like the TV, radio, or computer. Address the person by name and remind them of your relationship. Maintain eye contact to get them to concentrate on your words.
3. Give a clear, succinct message
Remember to speak slowly and use simple words. Be mindful of your tone because it can hurt their feelings. If your elderly loved one doesn’t understand, patiently repeat or rephrase your words. Break everything down into a series of manageable instructions.
4. Listen not only with your ears
When dealing with dementia, you must be patient in waiting for a reply. Sometimes, you must use more than your ears to listen. Look at body cues and overall demeanor. Help supply words when they are grappling for it. Listen with your heart to comprehend their emotions.
5. Respond with love
An elderly loved one with dementia feels insecure. They often feel anxious, confused, and scared. Often, they can mix up facts and remember the wrong things. As such, you need to be patient in explaining. Speak in a soothing tone and use gentle words. Hold their hand, touch them, and pat their back. Offering kindness and love will go a long way.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help and Seek Support
Whether you need to take care of someone in your family or doing so as your profession, never be afraid to seek a helping hand and ask for support. Support groups and organizations can help family members and professionals tremendously. With your group, you can vent your frustrations without any judgment. Since everyone is going through the same thing, you can share coping tips and tricks with one another. A group is a good place to find resources about dementia. Other pro caregivers can also give you their professional insight to apply in caring for your elderly loved one.
Furthermore, professionals should never feel ashamed to ask a colleague for support. Everyone in the healthcare profession understands that caring for someone with dementia is difficult. Hence, there will be moments that even professionals need a friendly ear. Someone to talk to can help unburden you from the stress you feel.
Do Exhibit Compassion and Empathy
Quality care always springs from a compassionate heart that empathizes with the plight of a sick person. This mantra holds true for every human relationship, but it becomes even more important for those who care for people with dementia. To illustrate, a person with dementia can get confused about the time of day, where they live, and who their family members are. This situation is truly heartbreaking!
Thus, it would help to put yourself in the person’s shoes. How would you want to be treated if you ever find yourself not knowing who you are and feeling disoriented about your new assisted-living community? Actively empathizing with the senior in your care can help you become more conscientious of your actions. After all, everyone will eventually enter the twilight of their years. When you experience this season of life, you certainly want everyone to care for and respect you, even if you suffer from dementia.
Don’t Believe the Myth that Dementia is Only Memory Loss
It is an understatement to say that dementia is merely memory loss. However, memory loss is one of the symptoms of dementia. Some dementia cases, such as Pick’s disease and frontotemporal dementia, exhibit personality changes. Remember, the brain has different lobes, so the symptoms that manifest can vary depending on the location affected by the disease.
Noteworthy, memory loss is often the most obvious symptom that exhibits the person is suffering a neurological decline. Sadly, this can lead to many other issues, such as combative behavior and terrible mood swings. To illustrate, it is highly likely that a lady-like grandma will start cussing like a veteran sailor in rough seas. It is normal for dementia patients to experience delusions and even hallucinations. In some cases, an elderly person can even begin to think that his family members plot something evil against him.
In the advanced stage of most kinds of dementia, the patient may be non-functioning. As a result, you will find them unable to dress themselves, brush their teeth, or even eat. Incontinence may also be a problem. When the self-care abilities are gone, you may need a permanent caregiver all the time or consider seeking a dementia facility for help. Dementia patients who lose their ability to communicate and identify people or things can end up getting lost. It is truly heart-wrenching to see someone who was once so lively become unresponsive. Thus, seeking professional help is crucial when they can no longer live independently.
Do Set Realistic Expectations
Though it is vital to stay positive, you must also be realistic about the disease. Though it may sound harsh, the sad reality is that dementia is often an irreversible and progressive disorder. In fact, prepare for things to get worse over time. There is no known cure for this disease, so manage your expectations and plan accordingly. What you can do is to ensure that the person in your care is always comfortable and safe. You can try the following:
- GPS tracking apps
- Digital clocks with reminders
- Communication aids
- Home monitoring devices
- Security cameras
- Home care bots
- Medication management tools
Remember, most professionals share that dementia patients often have good days and bad days. For best results, always try to prolong the good days by ensuring your elderly loved one is not agitated or stressed. Providing a relaxed environment without excessive stimuli can help them stay calm. Feeding them a healthy diet that maintains their blood pressure and sugar levels will ensure better days ahead.
Don’t Forcefully Correct or Be Mean About Troublesome Behavior
Personality and behavioral changes are the biggest challenges when caring for a loved one with dementia. Most become irritable when they cannot remember things or do what they like. Some become combative when you restrict their movements for their own safety. Sadly, they no longer have the mental faculties to process that what you are doing is for their own good.
In cases like this, you must once again be patient, compassionate, and understanding. Don’t take things personally and strive to maintain a good attitude. To help you out, consider the following:
1. Change how you respond
Remember, you cannot correct nor change a person with dementia. It is an incurable disease. When you attempt to modify their behavior and attitude, you will most likely fail. Most of all, they will resist. Hence, it is better to change how you respond because you still have control over your behavior and reasoning.
2. Check with the primary care provider
Sometimes, when the behavior becomes too much, you need to consult their doctor. It could be an underlying medical issue. Your elderly loved one could be in pain. It could also be a side effect of a medicine. Seek the doctor’s advice to help you sort things out.
3. Consider the various triggers
Often, how a person with dementia reacts is based on a trigger. Sometimes, it could be something as simple as the weather. It could also be what they ate that day or the noise they heard that got them overstimulated. Be more observant in assessing their disruptive patterns. Through proper evaluation, you can find triggers and avoid them.
4. Understand the reason behind it
Since people with dementia cannot eloquently express what they want or need, they can act out. Sometimes, this manifests through erratic behavior, such as throwing out all the clothes from the closet. When this happens, understand the reason behind the behavior. What could your elderly loved one be trying to do or express? Try the best you can to accommodate them.
Do Everything to Prevent Wandering and Avoid Getting Lost
It is often common for people with dementia to wander around. They walk aimlessly even if they have no clue how to return. This could be a potential and serious problem that you have to consider. With poor memory, they can get lost permanently. To help you manage this behavior, consider the following:
- Include regular exercise to prevent restlessness and boredom.
- Consider installing smart locks that they cannot open but are accessible to others.
- Put a barrier on the main entryway, like a curtain to camouflage the door.
- Add child-lock covers on doorknobs to prevent accidents.
- Install security cameras to keep watch over your elderly loved ones.
- Sew name, contact number, and address labels on clothes.
- Inform neighbors about this problem so they can help keep watch.
Do Make Concrete Plans for the Future
When caring for someone with dementia, change is an inevitable part of the course. Remember this detail, so you won’t get used to a routine or status quo. As this disease is progressive, you must prepare for when you need to bring your loved one to a professional memory care facility with a residential option. As such, you need to check your finances and scout your area for a good nursing home. You must face the fact that care needs will increase as your elderly family member’s condition deteriorates. Thus, you must eventually transition your loved one into a reputable adult-living community.
If you need help, you can get in touch with us at Lakeside Manor. Our team understands that it is difficult to pick a care facility for your loved one. After all, you want quality care you can trust, as well as a good team that your beloved family member is comfortable with. Don’t hesitate to call and ask us any questions if you need additional information. We also invite you to tour our community to see how we spend our days with our lovely seniors.