Caring for a Loved One With Dementia
Dementia is challenging to navigate for both the individual experiencing the devastating effects of the disease, and their loved ones. If you are caring for a loved one battling dementia, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Taking on the role of a caregiver for your family member in need of memory care requires patience and flexibility. Placita In Home Care is here to help you navigate this challenging transition with practical advice on creating a safe environment with minimal stress.
Understand Your Loved One’s Triggers
People with dementia are prone to becoming easily agitated. Frustration manifests much more frequently in a person struggling with everyday tasks that have now become difficult due to their deteriorating memory. To minimize the stress of caring for your loved one, it is essential to understand their triggers and manage them accordingly.
Establish a Sustainable Routine
A daily routine is essential. Earlier in the day, your loved one is more likely to feel more alert, which allows specific tasks such as bathing or doctor appointments to go smoothly. Later in the evening, your loved one may experience increased irritability, confusion, or aggression due to a condition known as sundowning. Therefore, allowing your loved one’s afternoon schedule to be open and flexible is best.
Maintain a Flexible Schedule
Simple tasks can become strenuous for a person with dementia. Maintaining a flexible schedule and allowing yourself and your loved one additional time to complete your daily checklist is vital. Certain activities may drain your loved one’s energy quicker than they used to; therefore, taking breaks during or in between each task is important.
Keep Your Loved One Involved
You may feel inclined to do everything for your loved one to simplify your day, but it is vital to allow them to be self-sufficient in any way possible. If you notice they can complete a task without assistance, allow them to do so. During some activities, they may only need visual cues or verbal guidance to get the job done on their own. For example, allow them to dress independently after you’ve left out clothes to change into.
Give Your Loved One Options
Giving your loved one choices throughout the day awards them some independence as they get to decide for themselves. Here are several examples of options you can offer your loved one to keep them engaged:
- Would you prefer a hot or cold beverage?
- Would you rather go for a walk or watch television?
- Would you like to wear a pink shirt or a blue shirt?
Simplicity Is Key
Simplicity for a loved one with dementia comes in many forms. When instructing your loved one, be mindful of how you’re communicating. Clear, straightforward instructions are most effective. Reducing distractions is also an effective way to improve your loved one’s focus. Turn off the TV during mealtime or conversations for more thorough communication.
Learn to Interpret
Your loved one may become frustrated when trying to communicate. They may have trouble getting the right word out when trying to convey a message. Learn to interpret what they’re trying to tell you based on the context and social or visual cues.
Offer Comfort in Times of Frustration
Remember that when they are struggling to communicate, it is upsetting to them. When you recognize your loved one getting worked up over the inability to successfully say what they are thinking, offer words of encouragement and let them know it is okay.
Speak With Respect
Dementia is a disease that strips individuals of their dignity. It is important to speak to your loved one in the same tone and voice you would speak to any other adult. Do not speak in baby talk or diminutive phrases such as “good boy/girl,” and do not speak as if your loved one was not in the room.
Too many naps or naps that last too long may cause your loved one to become confused or disgruntled when they wake up. Managing the number of naps and how long they rest can combat the chance of your loved one getting their days and nights reversed.
Prioritize Creating a Safe Environment
Dementia comes with several unpleasant and dangerous symptoms, including impaired judgement and problem-solving capabilities. It is important to prioritize their safety by creating a secure environment with minimal risks.
To prevent your loved one from falling and hurting themselves, you can take several measures to accident-proof your home. Here are various ways to improve the safety within your home:
- Remove scatter rugs
- Securely fasten extension cords to walls
- Install handrails or grab bars
When someone experiences memory loss, they may not be able to identify hazardous items. Installing locks on cabinets and closets that contain potentially harmful items or substances, such as medicine, guns, alcohol, toxic cleaning supplies, tools, and more, can reduce the chance of your loved one hurting themselves.
Adjust the Hot Water Heater
If your loved one can bathe on their own, it is a good idea to lower the thermostat on the hot water heater. Without the help of a caregiver, your loved one may become confused or disoriented, causing them to raise the temperature in the bath or shower and burn themselves.
Practice Fire Safety
It’s imperative for the safety of your loved one to ensure that fire safety precautions are practiced within your home. Always keep matches and lighters in a locked drawer or hidden area. If your loved one smokes, ensure they only smoke while under your supervision. It is also imperative to ensure that a fire extinguisher is nearby and that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working efficiently.
Manage Your Expectations
With time, your loved one will become more dependent on others and lose the ability to handle most things on their own. Dementia is often an uphill battle, and can become very taxing for you as their caregiver. It is important to manage your expectations throughout this transition. Practice patience and flexibility, adapting your schedule and lifestyle as needed to accommodate difficult days.
Focus On What Is Important
Memory loss evokes despair. It is normal to feel sorrow, anger, and guilt while navigating this awful disease. However, it is important to recalibrate and focus on what matters most: your loved one’s wellbeing. Spending quality time together may look different, but it is essential to find activities for you and your loved one to enjoy together.
Ask for Help
It is normal to feel overwhelmed, fed up, or exhausted. Rather than allowing your loved one to see your discontent, seek support from family, friends, or outside resources when you need a break. Caring for a loved one with dementia is taxing on your mind and body. It is important to remember that even the most supportive caregivers can become overwhelmed. Remind yourself that there is no shame in asking for help.
Seek Guidance From Memory Care Professionals
When caring for a loved one with dementia, many professional resources are available to you. If you have questions or concerns or need guidance on this chapter of your loved one’s life with dementia, Placita In Home Care is here to help. Contact our compassionate home care professionals today.