Records from The Alzheimer’s Association reveal that about fifteen million people in the US actively participate as caregivers for people dealing with dementia.
Looking after someone who has dementia is not an easy task.
It presents a wide range of challenges for both professionals and novices. This is because the illness comes with several symptoms like disorientation, inability to effectively communicate, and memory loss, etc.
That can take a toll on the person experiencing the condition as well as the individuals who provide regular care.
As a caregiver, your main responsibility is to ensure that the individual who is under your care remains as physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy as they can be.
While serving as a caregiver, it is vital to know how to deal with the issues that may crop up daily skillfully.
Below you will get to learn some priceless tips caregivers can employ to make the task at hand more manageable and fulfilling.
Best Tips When Dealing With Dementia
Understand that Patience is Paramount
A majority of people underestimate the level of patience you need to care for a person dealing with dementia. Note that an individual with dementia has to deal with the unexpected changes that are happening to their body.
They are continuously struggling to regain some of the skills they lose including thinking and speaking. It can make one feel agitated or hopeless most of the time.
This is why a caregiver needs to practice patience and try as much as possible to relieve the mental and emotional pressure that a loved one with dementia has.
Plan your time accordingly because rushing the individual you are caring for will not help much. It will only lead to more confusion between both parties.
Do Not Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Whether you are caregiving for a relative or you offer expert help, always be ready to accept support. Several support groups for family caregivers exist.
Search for the groups close to your location and pick the one you are most comfortable with.
Such groups are beneficial in that they create a safe space that caregivers can use to talk about the issues they have with other people who are in similar situations.
The interaction that happens in a group setting can also act as a learning environment where you can pick up one or more techniques to incorporate into your care plan.
Support groups are not a preserve for family members.
Expert caregivers can also join such groups where they can ask for assistance from colleagues, mentors, and other able individuals when facing challenging times.
Never feel bad for seeking a hand or wanting to talk to someone when things are tough.
Avoid Open-End Questions
It is advisable to limit the questions you pose to individuals who have dementia. When you have to ask questions, let them be simple queries that need a “yes” or “no” response.
Do not overwhelm the person who is under your care. Ask one question at a time and study the behavior of the respondent to know when it is time to go easy with all the questions.
Do Not Argue With a Person Who Has Dementia
Caregivers need to know that arguing with a person who is dealing with dementia is highly frowned upon.
Worth noting is that the brain of a person with dementia usually malfunctions.
This means that they may end up saying things that do not make sense or make false statements because this is what the brain is instructing them to do.
Express Love and Care Through Touch
One of the simplest ways to support a person with dementia is through touch. By holding their hands, you can share your love and assistance, making them feel better.
No one truly understands what goes through their mind; however, with simple gestures, you can help alleviate the condition they are experiencing both mentally and physically.
Even things like caressing their back or face, as well as brushing their hair and whatnot, all positively impacts the person.
Sometimes, the simples things have the biggest and the most positive effect.
It is not always about the treatment and the pills, expressing appreciation and care can be done in all sorts of different, drug-free ways.
Maintain Positive Healthy Relationship
Before you sign up as a caregiver, you must understand that at times the job can be harsh. It is, therefore, your duty to try and maintain a positive relationship with the person with the memory illness since there isn’t much they can do to control the situation.
Come up with creative ways to support the relationship so that both of you are happy.
This can include doing things such as creative activities like music and art, reminiscence, shared hobbies, or life story work.
Encourage Physical Activities
As you are caring for an individual dealing with dementia, you may notice that the person you are caring for just wants to sit at home and lock out the entire world.
This is not good as it may end up doing them more harm than good. Encourage the person under your care to take part in physical outdoor activities if they are capable.
Start small even if it is just going out to walk for a few minutes. Numerous studies show that regular physical activity or exercise plays a significant role in living better with the illness.
Ensure you pick out activities that both of you enjoy. Remember to involve the person you are looking after to avoid forcing them to do something they do not want.
Break Down Activities into Manageable Steps
Rather than expecting the individual under your care to jump on a task and complete it right away, break it down so that they complete it in a series of steps.
Cheer the person on and tell them to do as much as they can without too much pressure.
If there are some steps they forget, gently remind them. Step in and offer assistance in the areas where he or she cannot complete an activity on their own.
Experts also advise on the use of visual cues when communicating with the individual because it helps show them what to do next.
Take Care of Yourself
It is not possible to properly look after a person when you are not in the best state yourself. You would rather have someone else take up the responsibility than end up suffering.
Take breaks when necessary and do everything in your power to be happy and positive. This may demand that you increase physical exercise, eat a balanced diet, meditate, or go for long walks in nature depending on what you like.
It is the only way you will be able to handle the “job” in the best possible way.
Create a Peaceful Environment
This particularly applies to people with dementia who still live at home. Go the extra mile to make sure that the person who is dealing with dementia gets to live in a serene environment.
Get rid of clutter in the room because this can overwhelm anyone even when they are not ill. Simply create a dementia-friendly home.
You may need to change the colors of the room where the person under your care spends the most time. This is because bright colors normally act as stimulants, while subtle colors promote calmness.
The use of pleasant fragrances from sachets and fresh flowers can also be aroma-therapeutic fostering a sense of peacefulness. If one wants to listen to music, let it be something soothing.
Avoid Power Struggles
The following has a lot to do with how you communicate with the person you are caring for. Your primary responsibility is to make them feel secure and happy.
Do not be the person who always nags and causes avoidable conflict. Learn to listen more with your heart, eyes, and ears.
It is also wise to respond with reassurance and affection because people with dementia often feel anxious, confused, and unsure of themselves.
Avoid trying to tell the person they are wrong because this will only make them feel worse. Be keen to pick on the feelings that the person you are caring for showcases and respond with physical and verbal expressions of support, comfort, and reassurance.
Sometimes something as simple as hugging, touching, holding hands, and praise can get the person to respond when all other avenues fail.
Schedule Routines Wisely
Many people who care for individuals with dementia will tell you that routines are vital to peaceful coexistence between caregivers and the persons they are looking after. When you are coming up with these routines, be sure to plan things well.
For instance, tasks like medical appointments and taking a shower need to be placed earlier on in the day. This is where a person is feeling most refreshed and alert.
Schedules should also not be rigid. Allow flexibility for some spur-of-the-moment activities or those rather tricky days.
Create Time for Reflection
As you are planning activities, it is vital to have some time for reflection.
This is particularly important in the early stages when the person has been diagnosed with dementia since most people usually have a hard time accepting the new developments.
Alter expectations and be ready to deal with fresh challenges with each new stage of the illness. Caregivers also need to find the strength to celebrate successes and mourn losses.
Maintain a Sense of Humor
Indeed, humor is important for any person looking after a loved one or client with dementia.
Tell jokes when possible being careful not to do this at the person’s expense.
Laughter has been known to be therapeutic for many people. Studies also confirm that it is beneficial to those with memory loss.
Laughing makes a person forget about their troubles for a while because it acts as a stress reliever. Laughter can also help relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling like someone’s caretaker.
Taking care of an individual who has dementia does not come naturally for most. Caregivers have loads to learn along the way as they spend time with people dealing with dementia.
It starts by having a deep understanding of the dementia process so that you can know the type of care to extend.
The care process, however, does not have to be stressful at all times.
You can work with some of the tips above to improve the quality of life of the person with dementia enjoying heartening bonding experiences for both of you.