Are you the primary caregiver for a loved one in your family recently diagnosed with dementia? Are you concerned with how to best care for your loved one? As you may be aware, one of the most challenging and difficult aspects of witnessing your loved one struggle with dementia is seeing the sadness and confusion your loved one may experience. Many times, the feelings of your loved one may be exhibited through angry outbursts and belligerence. As you care for your loved one, we would like to provide some suggestions to help you keep your loved one with dementia safe.
First of all, what is dementia? Dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells. This damage then interferes with the ability of the brain cells to communicate with each other. Now when brain cells cannot communicate normally, they can impact the thinking, behavior and feelings of an individual. For that reason, you should not think that you can change your loved one, nor should you expect the behavior of your loved one to change. So, remember that any negative behavior you witness may be the symptoms of dementia. The suggestions below are to help you comfort your loved one and keep your loved one safe within the disease process.
Simple. That is such an important word for a person living with dementia. Your loved one with dementia may be overwhelmed by the confusion of a situation. As you try to explain any situation it may be difficult for your loved one to comprehend and that may, in turn, lead to further agitation. So try to keep any situations your loved one is involved in or explanations that need to be made, simple. Too many words, explanations, and voices are distracting, so again, keep it simple. For example: Keep visits by friends and family to one or two a week. Never have more than one or two family members or friends at a time. Be sure to time any visits during a time of day when your loved one is at his or her best. Let your loved one know who is coming, the relationship and name, this can be done gently and without causing your loved one any embarrassment of not remembering a person.
Routine. Another important word, but so very crucial for helping a person with dementia to cope. A person, experiencing the symptoms of dementia, will feel safe with a routine. For example, you should establish a morning routine of waking up, going to the bathroom, washing hands, having breakfast, and taking a shower. Meal times should be the same every day. Exercise is good for a person with dementia so be sure to include a daily walk in your routine. Think about other routines that would be helpful to you and your loved one. These routines will provide structure for your loved one. You can help your loved one and anyone else who takes part in the care of your loved one remember the routine by having a written schedule on the wall of the kitchen or living room.
Calm. Caring for your loved one with calmness is vital. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the disease process can be responsible for making your loved one argumentative. As much as possible respond with calmness and gentleness. Try to identify the reason for his or her anger. Find out if your loved one is in pain. Distract your loved one with another activity. Show your loved one that you are listening. As the caregiver for your loved one do not get upset. For example, if you are trying to get your loved one ready to go out for an activity and you know that he or she needs to use hearing aids, broach the subject of using his or her hearing aids gently as opposed to a paternalistic or demeaning way.
Now, as your loved one’s primary caregiver, remember to be kind to yourself. You must not hesitate to reach out to your other family members and friends for help. Caring for a loved one with dementia is a full time job. It may never go perfectly, so treat yourself with the same kindness that you treat your loved one. Remember, the fact that you are present and caring for your loved one can be the greatest source of support and comfort you can provide.
At David H. Jacoby Elder Law Advocate, P. A., we are focused on providing thorough, ethical, and timely solutions for our clients and their loved ones. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with us.