Caring for those with dementia is scary, yet it may not be as difficult as expected. Whether you are caring for a parent or senior loved one with Alzheimer's disease or another kind of dementia, or you are a senior care professional approaching your work with some understanding — the proper attitude is essential for success.
As a caregiver, you can preserve some measure of control by educating yourself about dementia and having a cheerful but realistic attitude. This can lessen the impact of unforeseen situations and enhance the quality of care you deliver.
Consider the following facts while approaching your duty as a caregiver for a person with dementia:
Whether you are a family member or a professional caregiver, you should never be reluctant to ask for assistance. Many family caregivers find support groups to be extraordinarily beneficial. Caregivers can vent their frustrations in a group environment with people who share their experiences. In addition, it provides caregivers with the opportunity to learn about local Alzheimer's and dementia resources.
Similarly, professional caregivers should not hesitate to seek assistance from a colleague when confronted with an extreme task or trying time. Caregiving for a person with dementia is difficult, and there will be times when professional caregivers need a helping hand or someone to talk to.
Compassion and empathy are the basis of care. This is true in all human relationships, but dementia caregivers may find it especially relevant. Dementia patients are susceptible to becoming confused about their location and even the time period in which they are living. Consider how you would feel and want to be handled if you suddenly found yourself lost in a strange place, uncertain of the year or your own identity.
Be realistic about what defines success as the condition progresses. Success ensures that the individual you care for is as comfortable, content, and secure as possible. The majority of experienced dementia caregivers will tell you that the individual they care for has both good and bad days. Don't try to compel the person with dementia to have good days or even good moments; instead, do your best to encourage them. Also, be realistic about the disease's progression.
Remember that the majority of types of dementia, including Alzheimer's, are progressive and irreversible. Dementia tends to worsen with time, and there is no known treatment. (A notable exception is dementia caused by medicine, which is reversible when the medication is discontinued.)
Memory loss is a classic characteristic of dementia. However, many forms of dementia, notably front-to-temporal dementia and Pick's disease, manifest themselves as personality changes instead of memory loss. Symptoms of the condition vary on which regions of the brain are affected. Even when memory loss is the most noticeable symptom of dementia, the individual is suffering a neurological decline that can lead to various additional complications. A patient may exhibit challenging behaviors and emotions.
A prim and proper grandma, for instance, may begin to curse like a sailor. Or, a gentleman who was formerly trustworthy may begin to believe that his family is scheming against him or may experience other delusions and hallucinations. In the last stages of most types of dementia, people are unable to perform activities of daily life independently (such as dressing and using the restroom). They may become non-communicative, unable to recognize family members, and even immobile.
Change is the one constant when caring for a person with dementia. Never become complacent with the current situation. This means that family caregivers should be prepared for the possibility that their loved one will require residential memory care services. This requires both financial planning and identification of the best local care options.
Professional caregivers and providers of memory care must also plan ahead. They must constantly reevaluate the care requirements and health state of patients and residents with dementia. Remember that residents' care requirements will certainly grow, and prepare ahead for any changes, such as moving to a skilled nursing facility or hospice care.
Caregivers may face challenges like communication difficulties, changes in behavior, safety concerns, and the emotional and physical demands of caregiving.
Use clear, simple words, maintain eye contact, and be patient and supportive, as understanding and responding may take longer for a person with dementia.
Organizations like the Alzheimer's Association and local Area Agencies on Aging can provide resources, support groups, and advice to caregivers.
If you wish to know about the best practices in dementia care, check out this other article by Senior Strong.