Dementia is a degenerative disease that affects not only a person's mind but their physical body as well. If your loved one is diagnosed with this illness, you will need to make changes in how they are taken care of in order to ensure they maintain good physical, mental, and emotional health.
However, caring for a loved one with dementia often requires a bit of dexterity and adaptation. Doing so can be frustrating at times, especially if you have never dealt with the illness before. By educating yourself and following some advice, you can help care for your loved one in the best way possible and manage their dementia with greater ease.
A common misconception about dementia is that it only affects a person's mind. While memory loss is a common symptom of the disease, the degeneration goes further than that. Over time, a person’s brain will lose the ability to signal other parts of the body, leading to physical inabilities as well. Your loved one may also experience differences in behavior or mood, or become non-verbal. Knowing this can help better prepare you for the challenges to come.
Speaking honestly, it can be frustrating not being able to get your mother's attention or upsetting to see your father not remember who his grandchildren are. However, rather than focusing on the negative emotions that may inflict, put yourself in your loved one’s shoes.
If you were affected by the same disease they have, you would want to be treated with understanding and empathy. Especially on the “bad days,” do not get frustrated if your loved one is confused or upset about something. Do your best to be patient with them and respond to them with the same attitude you would want to experience.
Speak Slowly and Simply
As mentioned, memory loss and confusion are common symptoms of dementia. When speaking to your loved one, phrase your questions or statements in simple language and speak slowly so they have more time to understand you.
Be careful not to shout or raise your voice — they are not hard of hearing; they simply need a moment to process what you’re saying. If they don't understand you at first, repeat the question, using similar wording. You should also use specific names and places so you are more clear, rather than using pronouns or generic locations.
If you plan on having a conversation with a loved one who has dementia, it's often best to limit as many distractions as you can. Turn off televisions, don't use loud electronics or appliances, or go to a quiet room so they can better focus on the conversation.
It's also beneficial to exhibit body language that tells your loved one that you are trying to speak to them. This can mean sitting down in front of them, rather than standing, pacing, or gesturing to yourself before you begin speaking.
Break Down Tasks
You may see getting dressed, brushing your teeth, doing your hair, and eating breakfast in the morning as one flowing task. However, for someone with dementia, those are numerous activities that can overwhelm them.
Rather than go through the motions altogether, break down each task and tell your loved one what you will be doing before you get started. By doing so, they can better understand what is happening and avoid feeling agitated or frustrated during that process.
Safety Proof Your Home
As a person's dementia worsens, they may no longer be safe living in their home without certain safety precautions being taken. In order to ensure their safety, you should take measures to combat:
If your loved one doesn't realize where they are, they can easily walk out the front door and wander around the neighborhood. To prevent this, consider installing alarms, safety latches, or adding bells to doors to signal their opening.
Sometimes, loved ones can forget they already took their medication and can double up by mistake, risking their health. Keep all medications out of reach once a loved one has taken them for the day.
A person with dementia or Alzheimer's may not easily recognize a telephone scam, so set your phone to quickly go to the answering machine rather than allow your loved one to answer it and fall victim to false advertising.
In order to ensure the safety and well-being of your loved one, many patients with dementia need constant care, especially if they live alone. This can be a daunting task to manage by yourself, therefore, look to accept help when you need it.
Hiring an in-home caregiver for your loved one can take some of the pressure off of you and allow your loved one to receive the Specialized Care they need to preserve their health and dignity.
With Homewatch CareGivers of West Los Angeles, our specially trained memory care team knows how to address moods associated with various forms of dementia and will develop a unique care plan that can be altered as the condition evolves and progresses. Contact us today to get the care your loved one needs.