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Caring For Dementia Patients: All You Need To Know

Looking after seniors with dementia comes with several unique challenges. Cognitive impairment impedes the patient’s ability to speak coherently, so they can’t express their needs and demands. As a caregiver, you must advocate for your patient. Speak and act on their behalf to ensure they meet their daily needs and claim their privileges.

Don’t worry if you have zero experience with dementia patients. We understand that studying best practices for dementia care for the first time can feel overwhelming. However, self-study isn’t your only option. To help you provide the best care for dementia patients, we’ll flesh out the most crucial caregiving points.

Ensure The Diagnosis Is Accurate

Waning Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

Most patients don’t know that they have dementia. Cognitive impairment prevents one from thinking critically, making objective decisions, and registering new information. As such, the patient’s families would have to advocate for them.

If your loved one starts showing signs of dementia, encourage them to visit a medical professional. Self-diagnosis never yields helpful results. Although the internet gives us access to several reputable sources of information, it cannot replace a medical degree.

Also, consult dementia care advisors about the patient’s caregiving needs. Dementia patients might still be able to function relatively well during the early stages. However, once the symptoms worsen, even simple tasks like taking a bath, cooking meals, and taking medication would go overlooked.

  • Look For Warning Signs & Symptoms: Again, we don’t encourage self-diagnosis. However, knowing the warning signs and symptoms of dementia will help you address it during its early stages. At least familiarize yourself with what to track.
  • Check The Facts: Always consult a medical professional. If you have doubts about your loved one’s first diagnosis, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. After all, there are many ways to take care of dementia patients, and you’ll need help identifying the best options.
  • Be Optimistic: Always maintain a positive attitude when taking care of elderly with dementia. Help patients deviate their minds from negative thoughts. Just make sure not to provide support, not false, baseless hope.

Make Your Finances A Priority

Many people study how to take care of dementia patients themselves to save money. Dementia patient care is expensive. Also, most patients live 10 to 20 years after diagnosis, so your medical bills could add up to hundreds of thousands if you don’t manage them properly. 

However, this doesn’t mean you should automatically provide caregiving services yourself. Your loved ones need the best care for dementia patients to maintain a good quality of life despite their condition. Don’t consider caregiving unless you have experience providing care for patients with dementia. 

To minimize expenses, review your healthcare and insurance plans. See if you have any ongoing policies that cover dementia treatment and maintenance plans, then clarify which of your household members can utilize these benefits.

  • Have A Talk About The Expenses: Dementia patients can no longer manage their finances. It’s up to their immediate family members to pay bills and decide on treatment plans — without compromising the patient’s living will.
  • Ask Official Permission To Share Information: Ask your dementia-stricken loved one if they feel comfortable with the hospital disclosing to you their condition’s findings. If not, find someone they trust.
  • Address Legal Concerns: Go over the living will of the dementia patient. Review if it contains information on their healthcare power of attorney and preferred medical treatments.
  • Be Vigilant To Abuse: Please help your dementia-stricken relative secure their finances. Keep track of any unusual account activity, especially random requests from people they don’t really know that well.

Start Devising A Plan

Start Devising A Plan

As mentioned above, dementia patients often live 10 to 20 years post-diagnosis. However, their condition will likely worsen, so taking care of elderly with dementia in the late stages will require more technical skills and medical know-how. Basic caregiving services are no longer enough.

Start planning for long-term maintenance as early as possible to ensure your dementia-stricken loved one gets the necessary support. Remember: the level of care needed for dementia patients evolves. You’ll compromise your loved one’s overall quality of life if you get caught off guard and unprepared.

  • Build A Team You Can Trust: It might seem excessive at first, but you’ll need all the help you can get as your loved one’s condition worsens. You’ll need at least one to two caregivers if your loved one lives alone.
  • Delegate Tasks: Apart from building a team, start delegating caregiving tasks. For instance, caregivers can take on daily tasks like toileting and bathing, then leave the patient’s medical needs to experienced nurses.
  • Make Your Loved One Your Priority: Please support your loved one during these trying times. Since dementia impairs cognitive function, most patients might not even know they need help. You can advocate for them.

Tackle Safety Concerns And Measures

Apart from providing daily care for patients with dementia, you also need to overhaul their living space. Patients with cognitive impairment can no longer function as well. Exposing them to hazardous items like kitchen utensils, handyman tools, and gardening equipment lying around puts them at risk.

Support your dementia-stricken loved ones with the different tasks they perform throughout the day. Even simple tasks like bathing and toileting could lead to grave accidents, so patients should generally have at least one caregiver monitoring them.

  • Prevent Falls: Keep them from using stairs and ladders by placing everything they need at an accessible height. If possible, dementia patients should live in bungalows. 
  • Stop Them From Wandering: Your dementia-stricken loved one should always have a smartwatch or smartphone that you can track. Trust us—many patients wander at random times of the day. In the worst case, they could get up in the middle of the night and roam around the city cluelessly.
  • Anticipate Other Potential Accidents: Read about the most common accidents among seniors and cognitively impaired individuals. Go beyond slips and falls.
  • Take Note Of Driving Dangers: Hire a designated driver for your dementia-stricken loved one. Letting someone with cognitive impairment drive around threatens themselves and everyone they encounter.

Prioritize Yourself Too

Participate In A Support Group

Caregivers tend to overlook their needs. Since patients require 24/7 support, they have to make themselves available. This habit might seem admirable. However, overworking yourself to exhaustion does more harm than good.

Taking care of a dementia patient will drain you physically, emotionally, and mentally, so please take a break now and then. Look for a part-time caregiver who can fill in during your days off from work. Meanwhile, you can book your patient for respite care services if you plan on taking longer breaks for trips and vacations.

  • Participate In A Support Group: Connect with your like-minded peers. Joining support groups geared toward caregivers where you can ask for tips and advice on how to take care of dementia patients properly.
  • Recognize Depression: Watch out for the warning signs of mental health complications like anxiety and depression. Admittedly, taking care of a dementia patient feels grim. It’s not unusual for caregivers to develop mental instability after working in the industry for several years.
  • Take Some Days Off: Look into part-time caregivers and relievers who have experience providing respite care for patients with dementia. Do a few dry runs before committing to a  caregiver.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best care for dementia patients? There is no one-size-fits-all solution on how to take care of patients with dementia, but you can pick up some valuable points from what other caregivers commonly ask.

What should you not say to someone with dementia?

Always respond with kindness and patience. Don’t hold their memory loss against them, avoid discussing their worsening condition in front of them, and use shorter, simpler sentences when talking.

Does a person with dementia know they are confused?

Dementia patients know they feel confused, but they probably don’t understand why. As the condition progresses, a patient may no longer distinguish the symptoms that come with dementia.

Is dementia worse at night?

Sundowning refers to the emergence of symptoms in the afternoon or evening. Daylight triggers some dementia patients. However, in many cases, sundowning arises when the patient feels hungry, irritated, or bored but cannot express themselves.

Taking Care Of Your Loved Ones With Dementia

Please understand that you and your family don’t have to take on the role of a caregiver yourselves. Providing care for patients with dementia is definitely challenging. And haphazard caregiving yields negligible benefits. If you have doubts about your capacity to offer dementia patient care, don’t hesitate to consult a dementia care advisor.

Ask for support. Professionals know the care needed for dementia patients to maintain a good quality of life despite their cognitive impairment. Trust us—taking care of dementia patients is exhausting physically and mentally. You can’t expect to advocate for your loved one if you have zero knowledge of their needs, preferences, and demands. 

Is it your first time taking care of a dementia patient? Senior Strong can help you learn the ropes! Check out our helpful post on what caregivers ask memory care facility staff members.

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