According to The Alzheimer’s Association, 15 million Americans have someone with dementia in their care. Most of these caregivers can admit that it is not an easy task as it takes a lot of patience, love, and flexibility.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a group of cognitive and behavioral symptoms that result from a decline in brain function. General symptoms include loss of memory, a decline in problem-solving ability, confusion, communication problems, and other thinking abilities that interfere with daily life.
Dementia starts slowly and gradually worsens. When it gets to this point, people with dementia can’t take care of themselves. In addition, dementia can cause extreme mood swings, personality changes, and behavior that can be very frustrating to the caregiver.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, your role in the person’s life will increase as the disease progresses. To reduce the frustration, make the tasks manageable, and make the person comfortable, consider these tips.
Make the home safer
First things first, you need to make changes within the home to minimize fall risk.
- Make sure you have emergency telephone numbers and emergency addresses
- Modify the kitchen, bathroom, etc. to prevent accidents
- Keep tools, chemicals, cleaning supplies, etc. out of harm’s way
- Take fire safety precautions
Be a realistic caregiver
Most realistic caregivers will tell you that there are good and bad days. Someone with dementia can be extremely moody, which can frustrate you if you are not patient enough. Try your best to foster the good days for the person and allow them to enjoy the moment. Be understanding and patient on the bad days and help them get through the day. You also need to know when to give them space.
Someone with dementia is easily agitated, especially when they can’t complete the simplest of tasks like using the bathroom, dressing, etc.
- Provide simple instructions in a way they can understand
- Allow time for breaks during tasks.
- Provide choices for the person to choose from. For example, you can ask if they prefer tea or milk
- Allow the person to take part in some tasks with the least amount of assistance
In addition, good communication skills can enhance your ability to handle a person with dementia.
Consider the following:
- Set a positive mood for interaction. Speak pleasantly and respectfully and mind your body language.
- Ask straightforward, answerable questions and avoid asking open-ended questions
- Respond with love, affection, and reassurance
- Use humor when possible, but not at the person’s expense
- Change the environment or topic if the person becomes agitated
Know when to take a break
You also need to take care of yourself. Take a break now and then. You will be grateful you did. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are a family caregiver, support groups can be very helpful. These groups allow you to share with others in the same shoes as yourself and gain useful insights about the disease.
Professional caregivers should also not be reluctant for help from colleagues when faced with a challenging time.
Pay attention to their changing physical needs
When caring for someone with dementia, you need to be keen on his or her changing mental state and physical needs.
Look out for changes in their eating habits, ability to communicate, ability to dress, etc. These changes will let you know how to adjust and when to ask for help.
Make future plans
Finally, it would be best if you made long-term plans for the person with dementia. This includes financial planning, as your loved one will continually require medical care. Their care needs will inevitably also increase, and you might have to move your loved one to a professional nursing provider