Caring for a loved one with dementia is an emotional and stressful journey. However, you are not alone. There are over 16 million dementia caregivers in the United States and more worldwide. Dementia affects cognitive, physical, and functional abilities, and the condition worsens as the disease progresses. Read on for five ways to support a loved one with dementia.
1. Accept the Diagnosis
The first step to supporting your loved one who has dementia is accepting the diagnosis. Getting to terms with the dementia diagnosis is often as challenging for the patient as it is for the family members. This could result in living in denial, keeping you from seeking the required help in time. You should give yourself and your loved one time to process the diagnosis and transition to the present condition to provide the necessary support.
2. Educate Yourself About the Disease
Before the dementia diagnosis, you may have little or no knowledge about the condition, so you should consider learning more about the disease. Although patients have different experiences with dementia, familiarizing yourself with how the disease is likely to progress allows you to be better equipped to handle challenges, develop realistic expectations, and minimize frustrations. Be sure to rely on online training, workshops, and books, among other helpful materials, to get as much information as possible about the disease and learn the best caregiving skills.
3. Ask For Help
It is easy to manage your loved one’s condition in its early stages. However, as the disease progresses, your loved one becomes more dependent on you for care, which can be overwhelming. They may experience sudden weight loss, especially when they have difficulties chewing and swallowing, suffer from severe memory loss making it difficult to recognize you and other members close to them, and develop mobility issues.
Your loved one could also develop unusual, sometimes violent behavior or become incontinent. If your loved one’s needs become too overwhelming to manage, consider enrolling them in an assisted living care like Longhouse to receive the best support tailored to their condition.
4. Improve Your Communication Skills
Dementia affects a person’s ability to convey emotions and thoughts, and your loved one may experience difficulties communicating their needs. They may also not understand when you want to request something or ask a question, which is frustrating. By improving your communication skills, you enhance the quality of your relationship with the loved one and the ability to cope with challenging behavior and reduce caregiving stress. The following are tips for improving communication with a person who has dementia:
- Get your loved one’s attention by reducing distractions, addressing them by name, and using touch and non-verbal cues to keep them focused
- Reassure and acknowledge your loved one’s feelings
- Ask easy, answerable questions. Stick to yes or no questions, use cues and visual prompts to clarify queries and guide responses, and refrain from giving choices
- Develop a positive mood for interaction by addressing your loved one calmly and respectfully
- Be patient
- Break down activities into simple, manageable tasks
5. Manage Sleeping Issues
Dementia leads to changes in sleeping patterns, and your loved one could become awake at night and restless. They often confuse day and night, and your loved one could sleep the entire day and be confused at night. Here are ways you could help a loved one experiencing trouble sleeping:
- Develop a bedtime routine by ensuring the bedtime and wakeup time are consistent
- Reduce junk food intake
- Relieve pain by seeking medical attention, especially when your loved one also has arthritis and other conditions that affect sleep quality
- Reduce napping during the day
Caring for a loved one with dementia is as challenging as it is rewarding. Implement the above strategies to help your loved ones manage their condition.