During September, we like to remind everyone that it is World Alzheimer's Month. This is a perfect time to continue to spread awareness about the signs, symptoms, and progression of the disease. It is also a great opportunity, if your loved one has been recently diagnosed, to go over your care plan and prepare for the future. One widely recognized approach when it comes to dementia care is the “4 R’s” approach, which focuses on unique individual care and also includes four essential elements. These elements are reassure, reconsider, redirect, and relax. We will cover each of these four elements in this article individually, so that you can integrate them into your care plan as you see fit. Keep reading to learn more.
Since it is normal for a loved one who’s living with dementia or Alzheimer's to be confused, anxious, or even fearful, then the first “R” in dementia care is to reassure your loved one. Reassuring your loved one offers them a sense of comfort, security, and safety. Reassurance doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be through simple gestures including holding your loved one’s hand, maintaining eye contact, and speaking to your loved one with a calm and reassuring tone. Something else that reassures your loved one is providing consistent and predictable routines. This includes daily activities, meals, and sleeping patterns. A structured routine greatly reduces confusion and anxiety and increases a sense of familiarity and comfort. Reassuring your loved one and maintaining a schedule promotes stability and wellbeing.
The second “R” in dementia care stands for reconsider, which relates specifically to the care we provide our loved ones. Each person living with dementia is different, because they are unique and have their own personality. Person-centered care means that we as caregivers need to go out of our way to respect the unique preferences, abilities, and background of our loved ones. We “reconsider” the care we are providing, and tailor it specifically to the person we are caring for. When you get to the point where you need assistance, your professional caregivers and nurses should go out of their way to take the time to get to know your loved one. This includes their personal history, interests, and values so that their care plan is tailored specifically to them.
Your loved one may become irritated, agitated or anxious. This occurs mostly when they are unable to communicate what is bothering them. Examples of this might include irritation with uncomfortable clothing, hunger, or sundowning where your loved one gets more confused and agitated in the evening. Dealing with these issues with redirection is the third “R” in dementia care. This is done by understanding the triggers and behaviors your loved one is dealing with and addressing the underlying cause. For example, redirection might include providing a calming environment, making sure dinner is on time, and/or engaging in soothing activities.
The fourth and final “R” in dementia care is providing a relaxed and calming environment for your loved one. This includes creating a space that is free from unnecessary or excessive stimulation, noise, or clutter which exacerbates agitation and confusion for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's. Creating this space includes focusing on lighting, calming colors and a relaxing ambiance. Familiar objects, photos, and meaningful decorations can also help relax your loved one.As someone who provides care to a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's, it is important to reassess your care plan at certain intervals. Your loved one will eventually need more care than you are able to provide on your own, so if you need a break or are interested in resources that can help you maintain your loved one’s comfort and dignity, then we can help you here at Homewatch CareGivers of Annapolis. We are always here to support you and your loved one, so contact us today to learn more.