If you ask people what they know about dementia, most will answer “memory loss.” What unaware people often overlook is that other symptoms manifest as personality changes. More than dealing with the gradual loss of memory, it’s handling these personality shifts that make dementia care challenging.
Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for home health and personal care aides are anticipated to grow to 34% from 2019 to 2029. The job growth rate increases much faster than the national average in other occupations. This means that over a decade, roughly 568,800 jobs will be available each year. Despite the great demand for jobs in this sector, there’s still a shortage of caregivers.
Practical Tips on Caring Someone with Dementia
That must be why millions of adult children take the route of caregiving to look after their family members who have dementia or Alzheimer’s. If you have to fill that role, too, we’ve compiled these handy tips for how to care someone with dementia.
1. Get evaluated for memory problems.
If you suspect a loved one has dementia, the first thing to do is visit your physician for an assessment. The doctor’s evaluation and recommendation will determine your next step of action.
In most cases, a person who is diagnosed will only exhibit mild symptoms. These symptoms don’t significantly impact day-to-day tasks. But take note that as the disease progresses, the ability of this individual to be self-sufficient also diminishes. So even if there’s minimal to no supervision needed as of this moment, someday, they will need to be moved to a care facility for 24-hour monitoring.
Once you get a confirmation that your loved one can remain at home, this marks the beginning of the caregiving duties. Unlike other health conditions, symptoms in dementia can co-occur, which makes caregiving tasks more challenging.
For example, along with forgetfulness, the person may experience sundowning, uncontrollable behavior changes, and incontinence. Focusing on one type of care isn’t practical, so family caregivers must be versatile.2. Support in activities of daily living (ADLs)
Ultimately, dementia will reduce a person’s ability to take care of themselves and perform their tasks. These tasks range from cleaning the house to personal care tasks, like bathing and toileting. At some point, the affected person will need support in this area.
You can lend a hand in completing house chores or give reminders for personal hygiene. Also, respect privacy when aiding a loved one in the bathroom or toilet. Keep in mind that it’s not easy for them to give up independence, so only offer assistance if they ask for it or obviously need it.3. Establishing daily routines and habits
A predictable daily routine makes it easy for the person affected with dementia to go through their day. If they know their routine after they wake up, they’ll know what to expect. Consequently, it’s unlikely they’ll get mood swings due to unexpected events.
Developing a consistent morning and evening routine in the mid-stage of dementia is ideal. Include cues to identify various times of the day. For example, drawing the curtains in the morning and turning off lights to signify bedtime. As time passes on, your loved one’s overall capability deteriorates. Therefore, you’ll need to modify these routines to adapt to their current condition.
You can also help a loved one establish new habits or change bad ones. Rather than telling them what’s right, it’s more effective to build good habits together. Also, if a loved one is a smoker, quitting immediately won’t be possible. Instead, ask your doctor if smoking cessation products can be used as alternatives.4. Maintaining social skills
Social withdrawal is expected due to isolation, boredom, or loneliness. Even when surrounded by people, a person with dementia will likely choose to retreat. The lack of interaction and engagement can negatively influence their routines, leading to excessive sleep during the day or feeling the need to withdraw.
Caregivers can help preserve the social skills of a family member through organizing social activities, both in and out of the home. Starting a conversation is the best method to encourage a loved one to interact. Asking about how their sleep was or what they like for breakfast are good conversation starters. These short, simple communication exchanges are valuable.
You can also use nonverbal cues, such as eye contact or a smile, when talking to a loved one. For outdoor activities, watching a movie in the theater, going to a sports event, and traveling are good options to choose from.5. Sleep problems
Dementia affects the circadian rhythm system and disrupts the person’s sleep patterns. Sleeping troubles are nothing new for the elderly, but they’re even more apparent in seniors with dementia.
Often, people who experience sundowning or late-day confusion and restlessness have trouble sleeping. For individuals with Alzheimer's, obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where breathing starts and stops involuntarily during sleep, is a serious concern.
To manage sleeping difficulties, ensure your loved one doesn’t oversleep during the day. Excessive sleep may lead to insomnia or trouble falling asleep at night. A routine of fixed waking and sleeping times can promote good sleep, so work on that. Encouraging a loved one to do physical activities with the right intensity is likely to get them to sleep restfully at night.
Also, don’t allow them to take any stimulants, such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, before going to bed. If any of the above don’t improve their sleep, ask your doctor if medications, like sleeping pills and tranquilizers, can be used.6. Eating disorders
The cognitive impairment also affects the person’s eating habits, which can result in malnutrition. The loss of appetite and dental problems are the most cited reasons for this. Meanwhile, some patients may simply forget to eat. This is why mealtimes must be monitored and supervised.
One way to effectively manage the loss in appetite is to stick to a meal routine and serve meals at the same hour every day. Adequate nutrition and a balanced diet must be a priority. Prepare soft foods and cut them into bite-size pieces. This makes eating easy for those with chewing and swallowing problems.
If you don’t know what kind of meal to prepare, get a list of the best food choices from your doctor or nutritionist. Sometimes, taking supplements may be necessary to add calories, but be sure to get advice from your physician.7. Wandering
Wandering tendencies may occur in the early stage of the disease. Due to stress, fear, or visual-spatial problems, you may find a loved one getting lost while going to familiar places or Finding their way back home. If this happens in an uncontrolled environment, it can be dangerous.
The best solution to prevent wandering is to make the home secure by installing locks, alarms on doors and windows, and a monitoring system. If you need to leave your loved one alone, get a wearable tracking device, such as a GPS-enabled watch or bracelet, for them to wear all the time.
Engagement is also integral to control restless behavior. Let the person be involved in multiple recreational activities and exercises to occupy their time and reduce wandering episodes. More importantly, remember to have a safety plan ready in case of unexpected situations.8. Enlist some help.
If you’re a family caregiver, you must not place your wellbeing on the back burner. A common mistake that caregivers make is that they often overlook their own health to prioritize their loved ones. This mindset is wrong. If you get sick, who would take care of your loved one? That’s why you should also take a break to evaluate your mental and physical health.
This is when enlisting help is beneficial. If no other family member can temporarily take over your care duties, you can opt for respite care service. Most companies offer respite and other care services to help family and primary caregivers. You can ask your local community or friends for reliable care providers.
The journey of caregiving is life-changing. You do it despite your emotional state toggling between happiness and heartbreak. On the surface, caregiving seems like a series of taxing experiences, but it is also rewarding. Indeed, being a caregiver is tough. There’ll be times when you want to give up due to exhaustion. When situations get tough, remember there are online support groups, resources, and care experts you can reach for help.
1. Is it possible to care for someone with dementia at home?
Yes, it’s possible. During the early to middle stage, memory loss and other symptoms won’t significantly hinder the person’s ability to complete daily tasks. Depending on how the disease progresses, home may or may not be the safest place. If dementia reaches the severe stage, a loved one will need constant monitoring in a care facility.2. Can dementia get worse suddenly?
Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning the condition gets worse with time. However, the speed of the health deterioration is different in each person’s lifestyle and current state of health. Symptoms can progress quickly due to an unhealthy lifestyle and health complications. For instance, dementia progresses rapidly for individuals with autoimmune neurological disorders, thyroid problems, or other comorbid conditions.3. What should you not say to someone with dementia?
When talking to a person with dementia, never say that they are wrong. Also, never ask about something that they might not remember. If you want to push the conversation forward, talk about recent events and people that they remember.4. How do you make a dementia patient happy?
There are various sources of happiness. For one, creative activities, like painting, can be fun for people with dementia. They may also enjoy games, like puzzles and card games. When it comes to making a person with dementia happy, it’s usually the simple things that matter, like spending time doing fun-filled activities with them.
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Senex Memory Advisors offers no cost professional advice to families on choosing the right Assisted Living and Memory Care communities. Their proprietary assessment tool is designed to reduce costs by finding the most appropriate solutions. If you have questions on finding an assisted living or memory care for your loved one, click here to discuss your queries with a certified dementia advisor or write to email@example.com
Syed has years of experience dealing with people, understanding their needs, and helping them find solutions to their problems.
As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional (CMDCP), Syed is committed to working closely with Senior and their family knowing what is it like for individuals facing a challenging time, at times groping in dark trying to figure what is the appropriate next step or care level for their unique situation.
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