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Caring for a Loved One with Dementia: The Fundamentals

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Caring for a Loved One with Dementia: The Fundamentals

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, it can affect an entire family. Caring for a loved one with dementia is extremely challenging and it comes with a lot of stress associated with seeing a loved one go down this path. When you are tasked with taking care of a loved one with dementia, educating yourself about the condition is only the first step in learning how best to take care of them. Below, we will look at other factors that can help you approach caring for a loved one with dementia better.

Empathize Actively

Empathy and compassion will make you a better caregiver. By understanding what your loved one is going through, you will not get as frustrated with them because you understand why they may be acting a certain way. Forgetfulness is a common symptom and reality of dementia, and it is one of the more frustrating things about being a caregiver. By being empathetic and compassionate, you will be able to understand forgetfulness and have the capacity to help your loved one remember something or orient themselves with the physical world.

Accept Help and Support

Taking care of a loved one with dementia can be frustrating and overwhelming. When taking care of a family member with dementia, do not be afraid to ask for help and support. Family caregivers can benefit immensely from joining support groups, especially when they are still new to taking care of someone with dementia.

Support groups give caregivers space to vent and talk about the challenges they may be facing taking care of a loved one. Support groups also help caregivers get in touch with other caregivers to learn how to better cope and take care of their loved ones.

Help with Everyday Tasks

Depending on the stage of their dementia, your loved one might resent you taking over their life. Instead of doing this, try to be as helpful as you can in the early stages. You can then increase your level of help as the condition progresses. For example, you can let your loved one go shopping, lay the table, or take the dog out for a walk with a little help from you in the early stages. You can also help them remember things by using markers and labels around the house.

As their symptoms worsen, you can increase the level of help you offer, all the while trying to ensure they maintain their dignity, individuality, and some sense of independence.

Be Realistic

Dementia is a progressive disease. You should define and be realistic about what a successful day as a caregiver will entail. Your loved one will have good and bad days. It is important to try to get them to have as many good days as possible, but do not try to force it. Try to also minimize the bad days and put them behind you as fast as possible because not doing so might lead you to be stuck in one place.

It is also important to be realistic about the diseases itself. Dementia is progressive and there is no known cure. Because of these two reasons, your bad one will get progressively worse. It is important to understand and be realistic about what this means for you and your loved one. Being realistic about the disease will also make it easier to know when the care you provide is not enough and when your loved one would benefit a lot more from having professional help or moving to dementia care or assisted living community.

Understand the Different Dimensions of Dementia

While the most common symptom of dementia is memory loss, there are many dimensions to the disease. For some, it will manifest in personality changes, while others become more aggressive. The way it presents as well as its symptoms depend on the regions of the brain that are affected.

Some of the other issues people with dementia have include hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, inability to take care of themselves, inability to recognize loved ones, and in later stages, the inability to move.

Create Calming Environments and Avoid Stress

It is important to create calming environments and situations, especially if your loved one is aggressive. For example, if they become agitated due to a certain environment and situation, do your best to try to avoid those environments and situations. You can also create calming environments by eliminating strong lights and reducing noise in the living environment.

If a loved one becomes aggressive, try to be calm, supportive, and positive. Remember that in many cases, a person with dementia will react the same way you do. In situations where they become angry or frustrated, ask them if they would like help or support in a calming manner. If that does not work, a redirection might. Ask them if they would like to do something different or move to a different environment.

Plan for the Future

The uncertainty of the progression of dementia means that you can never be comfortable with the way things are at the moment. This means that you need to prepare a time when your loved one may need specialized dementia care. Facilities that cater to loved ones with dementia will be able to handle your loved one better than you could, especially at the later stages. Many dementia care facilities also act as assisted living facilities, which is an added advantage for your loved one.

Remember that moving your loved one to a dementia care facility will require some financial planning as well as some research to find the best facilities for the level of care they need.

While caring for a loved one with dementia can be difficult and heart-breaking, it is still important to learn how to deal with the new reality. That may require that you learn about dementia and how to deal with a loved one who might become more aggressive or even have a personality change that makes them unrecognizable. At the end of the day, understanding, patience, compassion, and empathy will go a long way.

 

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