With millions of people living with dementia, there is a need for greater understanding of the many behaviors and symptoms. Often family members provide most, even all, of the care for their spouse, parent or other loved one as the stages of dementia progress over years.
Depending on the individuals and the type of dementia and when they are diagnosed, what the family needs to know and prepare for will vary widely. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common dementia, typically progresses in three stages for as many as 20 years.
People living with the early stages of Alzheimer’s may show memory lapses but remain mostly functional. Then in the middle stage, more noticeable changes begin to appear as confusion can increase and in the final stages people may require round-the-clock care.
Early Stage Tips
For people who are helping a loved one living with the early stages of dementia, we have compiled a list of possible activities that might help improve their quality of life. Abilities will vary depending on the individual. Some people may still be able to go to work and attend social functions during the early stages. In addition, things like raking leaves, caring for pets, doing puzzles and crafts, can allow them to spend time with others and have a sense of purpose to their day.
Another suggested activity to do together is keep a daily journal. This can be as simple as recording the day and weather and become as advanced as sharing feelings.
Middle Stage Tips
As the person living with dementia begins to lose more cognitive function, and possibly become increasingly anxious, the 5 Rs of Dementia Care, can help the family caregiver. These include remaining calm, responding to feelings, and reassuring the person that they are safe.
This advice ties into other tips that involve not taking the behavior of someone with dementia personally. For example, there is no point in arguing facts with someone who believes that a deceased loved one is in the room with them. Instead, experts recommend that caregivers step into the reality of the person with dementia somewhat, agreeing with them or redirecting them.
Late Stage Tips
Especially during the early stages of dementia, a family caregiver may be able to cope with care needs, but as the disease advances there are more physical demands and caregivers should take care of themselves too.
Care for the caregivers can include everything from finding an online or local support group to talk about challenges, eating healthy, paying attention to the signs of stress, hiring professional back up care for your loved one, and planning appropriately for anticipated needs. There isn’t a gain for anyone involved if a family caregiver tries to be a superhero.
Take a look at our dementia resources for dozens of tips to handle the symptoms of dementia.