Caring for a Loved One With Dementia: Strategies for Families Coping With Memory Loss

Dealing with a recent Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis can be very difficult, both for the person who received the diagnosis and their friends and loved ones. If you have agreed to provide caregiving services for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, you can benefit from doing a lot of research, maintaining a healthy support system, taking time away from caregiving for self-care, and asking for guidance and support from professionals. Here are some strategies for families who are caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

Prepare Yourself for the Challenges of Caregiving

When your loved one first gets a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you may feel overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, isolated, and angry. Deciding to become your loved one’s caregiver is a complex and emotional decision. Taking some time to understand the challenges of caregiving may help you prepare and face the challenges with confidence.

Caring for someone with dementia can be difficult because their moods, abilities, and needs may change greatly from day to day (or even from hour to hour). Their behavior, mood, and personality will also change as they progress through the different stages of dementia. Caregivers are very susceptible to fatigue, isolation, stress, and anxiety that can cause caregiver burnout.

If you take the time to understand the challenges, work with professionals, and create a support group of friends and family, you are less likely to experience burnout and more likely to provide the best level of care for your loved one.

Understand What to Expect Throughout Each Stage of Dementia

Each stage of dementia presents different needs, abilities, moods, and personality changes. You can prepare for giving your loved one personalized care by understanding what to expect throughout each stage:

  • Early Stage of Alzheimer’s or Dementia – In the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia, your loved one’s symptoms will be mild. They may be able to retain some independence and still drive, work, attend social activities, and take care of tasks around the house. However, they will experience memory lapses like forgetting the names of objects or their locations. Your loved one may become frustrated and stressed because they can’t come up with the correct word or name for something. They may also have trouble planning or organizing, forget meeting new people, forget things they have read or watched, and have trouble being in work or social situations. 
  • Middle Stage of Alzheimer’s or Dementia – In the middle stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia, your loved one will experience moderate symptoms. This stage is typically the longest and can last for years. Your loved one will need higher levels of care and more support as this stage progresses. They will have more significant and noticeable symptoms, and they may develop changes in their personality, mood swings, frustration, anger, and depression. They may refuse to bathe or take care of tasks around the house. They may have trouble expressing their thoughts and feelings. They may also forget events or parts of their personal history, have trouble recalling their address or phone number, express confusion about where they are or what they are doing, have trouble choosing appropriate clothing, develop sleep disorders, express confusion or delusions, have trouble controlling their bowel and bladder, and demonstrate physical and behavioral changes. They will need assistance with most daily activities and will likely not be able to work, drive, or be completely independent.
  • Late-stage Alzheimer’s or Dementia – During late-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia, your loved one will have severe symptoms that are very noticeable. They may experience severe mood swings and personality changes, even becoming provocative, confrontational, challenging, or violent. Communication will be difficult and they may not be able to take part in conversations or respond to their environment. They will require around-the-clock care in a clinical setting and assistance with daily activities. They will be more vulnerable to infection, injury, and illness. They should have professional care as well as care and support from their family.

Create a Routine for Everyday Care

People who have Alzheimer’s or dementia function better with a thoughtfully designed daily routine that you stick to. If you have family and friends who are willing to support your loved one’s care, create a schedule of responsibilities or coordinate care so that your loved one receives consistent daily support.

Stick with a daily routine for tasks like waking, bathing, dressing, and eating. You should also plan meaningful activities that will give your loved one focus and purpose and help them maintain some level of independence, like making a grocery list, watching TV or reading a book, playing a game, knitting, watching sports, or taking a walk. Let your loved one do as much as possible on their own and be gentle, consistent, and encouraging.

Rely on Loved Ones and Professionals for Support

You can’t care for your loved one alone. Create a network of support with friends, family, caregivers, and other professionals. Consider attending a support group in your community. Make sure your friends and family are able to share in caregiving duties so that you aren’t shouldering the responsibility on your own. Even teens and younger children can help with some things, like doing laundry, preparing meals, and providing companionship. You should also speak with professionals, such as a counselor, therapist, social worker, or spiritual advisor.

Make Time for Yourself

Caregiver burnout is a huge threat for family caregivers. If you are focusing all of your time, energy, and emotion on caring for your loved one and coordinating their schedule of care, you may not be making enough time for yourself. Neglecting your physical and mental health can be detrimental to your loved one’s level of care and your own.

If friends and family can’t help very often, consider hiring professional respite care services from an in-home care agency. Respite care is a term for caregiving services that are provided on an as-needed basis so the primary caregiver can take a vacation, visit the doctor, spend time with friends and family, go to work, or take care of other personal, physical, and mental health needs. 

Prepare for the Future

Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s is a journey that can progress at a very different pace for each person. Your loved one may remain stable for months or even years, and then experience a sudden and sharp decline, or their symptoms may progress rapidly, forcing you to make fast decisions and change their care plan from day to day.

It’s important to begin planning and preparing for the future as soon as your loved one gets their diagnosis. In the early stages of dementia, your loved one can get in-home care from a care agency that specializes in memory care or Alzheimer’s care. However, as your loved one’s health, mood, and needs change, they will eventually need a higher level of care. Preparing for that moment from the start will help you and your family come to terms with it when it arrives. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about what to do when your loved one needs assisted living Alzheimer’s placement and the resources that are available to you when that time comes.

Explore Your Options for In-Home Memory Care Services

At Placita In Home Care, we offer highly personalized in-home dementia care and Alzheimer’s care in Tucson, AZ, and the Phoenix metro area. Our compassionate caregivers are highly skilled and trained in providing care tailored to each client’s health, needs, and goals. We involve family in each step of the process and encourage family involvement as much as possible.

Our memory care services are carefully designed to be stimulating and engaging and offer your loved one support, companionship, safety, and assistance in the comfort of their own home. We also offer free home safety evaluations and assisted living placement services. Call us today or contact us online to schedule a consultation to discuss in-home care.