Dementia is a decline in mental ability that can interfere with a person’s everyday activities. Someone with dementia can struggle with memory loss, communicating with others, thinking clearly and caring for themselves. Because of these effects, individuals with dementia often need some level of care, depending on the severity of the disease.
If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, we understand the challenges it may pose for you, your family and your loved one. It can be a daunting task to undertake, but by having the right attitude and educating yourself about dementia, you can create realistic expectations and improve the care that you provide. The tips below can help by providing practical strategies when caring for your loved one with dementia:
Calm the Aggressive Behavior – If your loved one is expressing themselves with aggressive behavior, whether verbal or physical, it’s important to know that they aren’t doing it on purpose. This behavior can be common with dementia, and is often triggered by fear, an unfamiliar situation or frustration. When this behavior happens, calmly talk to your loved one. Let them know that you understand and love them. Then, remove them from their current environment and/or kindly change the subject to something that they enjoy talking about.
Practice Empathy – Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes, and imagine what they may be experiencing. Many people with dementia become confused about where they are, or even who they are, which causes feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. If you can imagine how that must feel, it can make it easier to respond to them in a way that they understand. It’s important to remember that what they are feeling is real. Showing your support and understanding can go a long way.
Respond to Confusion – Dementia causes damage to cognitive functions, which is what creates confusion and memory loss. This can cause your loved one to question where they are, what they’re doing, who certain people are or what time it is. If they are confused, you can help them by responding with a simple, short explanation. Also, when trying to correct them, it’s important to sound like you’re suggesting rather than telling. For example, if they are questioning who a family member is, you can say something like, “I thought she was your daughter.” Do not argue with them, as that rarely produces a positive outcome for anyone.
Limit Distractions & Noise – If your loved one is having trouble staying focused, limiting distractions – including the number of people around and making the surroundings quiet – can help. This can also help to prevent your loved one from feeling agitated. If you need your loved one’s attention, you can address them by their name and use nonverbal cues such as touching their hand and eye contact to help them stay focused.
Maintain a Sense of Humor – Many times, depending on the severity of the dementia, people with dementia retain their social skills and are able to laugh with you. Maintaining a sense of humor can help both you and your loved one to feel at ease and make light of certain situations, not at your loved one’s expense, of course.
Bring Back Positive Memories – Because many people with dementia have trouble with their short-term memory versus their long-term memory, you can bring back positive memories by talking about moments in your love one’s past. For example, your loved one may not remember what they did that morning, but they may remember memories from their childhood. This can be a soothing activity for your loved one, and may be enjoyable for you, as well.
Take Precautions for Wandering – If your loved one starts to wander, which is a common side effect of dementia, learning why they are wandering and how to keep them safe is important. There can be a specific reason why your loved one is wandering, such as looking for something or someone, needing to use the bathroom or simply boredom, and if you can figure out what the trigger is that causes them to wander, you may be able to guard against it. Also, some precautions you can take regardless of their reasons for wandering include: having them wear an ID bracelet, telling neighbors or those who live nearby of their wandering and providing them with your phone number, and installing new locks and/or child-safe covers on door knobs.
Get Support from Others – Caring for others is difficult, and you should never be afraid to ask for help. There are many ways you can get support – whether it’s from support groups, family members, friends, or by reaching out to a healthcare professional. You may also find that writing in a journal or blog can help alleviate stress and sort your thoughts when on the journey of dementia with your loved one.
By learning about dementia and having the right expectations and attitude, you can alleviate some of the challenges you face with caring for your loved one. Do any of the above situations sound like something you’ve dealt with, or are you planning on caring for a loved one with dementia? If so, we encourage you to share your experiences with us and our readers by commenting below.
Do you have specific questions about dementia, or do you have questions about the services we offer at Concordia? If so, feel free to contact us any time via our online contact form or by calling our administrative headquarters at 724-352-1571. For information on the services we offer, such as In-Home Care, Long-Term Nursing Care, Memory Care, Adult Day Services, and Hospice Care, visit the care levels & services page of our website.
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