Home Care for Dementia
The role of a caregiver can be challenging, both emotionally and practically. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, things may be even more difficult. Dementia is a type of cognitive impairment that causes a person to gradually lose their memory and ability to think clearly. The disease progresses differently in every individual and it can vary in severity over time. As a result, caregiving needs to change over time as well. Here are some tips to support your loved one with dementia and help make things easier for you as the caregiver.
Communicate often and be honest
It’s important to communicate often with your loved one, even if they have trouble communicating back. You should also be honest with your loved one, even if they don’t always understand. For example, if you have to cancel a visit you promised, be honest about why. The more you can be honest, the less confusion your loved one will have. Communicating with your loved one can also help you notice any early signs of health issues, such as infections, dehydration, or pressure sores. Health issues and the accompanying pain may cause your loved one to withdraw from communication. If this happens, be sure to get them checked out by a doctor to rule out any physical causes and give them the appropriate care.
Set routines and stick to them
There is some evidence that suggests people with dementia do better when routines are set and followed as closely as possible. You can set up regular times for meals, hygiene, medications, and other daily activities. Try to keep your loved one engaged in activities they enjoy, such as music, art, or hobbies. If your loved one is having trouble remembering how to do something, offer to help or encourage them to use visual cues, such as written instructions or visual schedules. Setting up a routine can also help you better understand your loved one’s needs and behaviours, so you can better respond to them.
Try to maintain your loved one’s independence
Even when someone with dementia may not be able to perform certain tasks on their own, you can still help them maintain some level of independence if they are interested. For example, if your loved one is able to dress, you may be able to help them use a dressing stick with a hook on the end to grab clothes and put them on. If your loved one is still able to feed themselves, try offering them smaller servings and keeping high-risk foods out of their reach. When possible, help your loved one with tasks that they may still be able to do, such as taking medications or using a cane or walker.
Be prepared for behavioural changes
As dementia progresses, your loved one may become more irritable and aggressive. This can be very upsetting, but try to understand that these behaviours are the result of their impaired mental state. If you can, try to remain calm when dealing with these types of behaviours and try to redirect them. For example, if your loved one is hallucinating and begins to touch things that aren’t there, redirect them away from the objects. You may also need to seek outside help from a mental health professional, especially if these behaviours are frequent or severe enough to pose a danger to your loved one or others.
Help care for your loved one’s basic needs
As dementia progresses, it can become difficult for your loved one to perform even their most basic daily tasks, such as bathing and grooming. You can try to help your loved one with these tasks and offer support when needed. If you need help learning how to give your loved one the care they need, find a local caregiver support group or contact a home care agency to help. You can also hire a health aide or home health aide to help with daily tasks.
Get help from professionals
As the disease progresses, you may need more assistance caring for your loved one. You can get help from professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and social workers, who specialize in dementia care. You may also want to consider joining a support group and finding a local Alzheimer’s Association chapter for help and advice. Communicating effectively is also important when dealing with professionals. Be honest about your loved one’s symptoms and what you’ve noticed over time. Make sure you understand and follow any recommendations the professionals make for your loved one. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask.
Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one. You can’t take care of anyone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and have time to engage in activities you enjoy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands of caregiving, there are many resources available to help you. You can talk to a doctor, social worker, or mental health professional. You can also contact your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter for help. However, don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed before taking action. It’s important to get support as soon as you feel you need it. Take care of yourself so you can continue to take care of your loved one.