Seniors living with neurodegenerative illnesses such as dementia face difficulties performing day-to-day tasks. This makes everyday living almost impossible to get through without help. Memory problems triggered by dementia cause issues with communication and the patient’s ability to care for themselves.
As a result, the responsibilities of a caregiver multiply. Supporting seniors with dementia can be challenging. Therefore, you must be prepared to manage their responsibilities and yours as the senior’s physical and cognitive capabilities continue to decline.
In this blog post, we have gathered five essential tips for caring for someone with dementia. By following these tips, you can avoid common pitfalls that most caregivers face.
Let’s get to it!
Create a Safe Environment
We cannot emphasize enough the significance of creating a safe home environment for seniors with dementia. If left unattended, they tend to wander aimlessly given their loss of memory. It can cause injuries, accidents, or even the death of senior citizens.
If you cannot monitor them 24/7, creating a safe environment is your best bet. Begin by installing grab rails on the staircase and in the bathroom if you haven’t already. Also, all the locks in the house should be above their eye level.
It’s because seniors with dementia focus more on things that are at or below their eye level. Apart from that, consider installing a security system that would send you an alarm in case of an emergency.
Giving your elderly loved one a GPS-enabled smartwatch is also a great idea. For supporting seniors with dementia, it’s essential to monitor their movements and keep them safe. GPS and home security systems would also eliminate the need to invade the senior’s personal space frequently.
Organize Social Events
This tip for supporting seniors with dementia is really your call. Not everyone likes social interaction, and it’s a personal choice. Besides, it also relies on the elderly’s ability to participate in social events.
Receiving adequate sensory experiences is considered vital for dementia patients. If they still can, you should encourage them to interact with friends and family. Socializing should, however be controlled to prevent overstimulation.
Your family members, neighbour, and friends can communicate with the senior before such an event. That would avoid any unpleasant surprises and overstimulation. Planned interactions, when conducted in a controlled manner, can work like magic for patients.
Educate Yourself about Dementia
Study and understand as much as you can about how to help the elderly with dementia. Knowledge is power, enabling you to take timely proactive and reactive measures in times of crisis. If you’re reading this blog, you’re already on the right path.
All you must do is continue educating yourself to manage your loved one’s illness. It will help you understand what the elderly must be going through, what might happen in the future, and what steps you can take to avoid complications.
There are plenty of resources available online to help your cause. In addition to that, you should consult your primary healthcare provider to obtain more information.
Preserve their Independence.
Treatment should work in tandem with certain lifestyle changes. Incorporating proper sleep, diet, and exercise in their routine would help seniors maintain a reasonable level of independence.
Staying socially and mentally active can also slow down neurodegeneration and improve their brain health. During the initial stages, your elderly loved one may need reminders for medications, appointments, bill payments, etc.
A good strategy would be to work with them in partnership instead of completely taking over the responsibility of performing each task. This helps preserve the senior’s independence to an extent.
Let them indicate that they need help with something. The following example would give you a better idea. If they can, let your loved one figure out the bills, and you can verify the calculations before paying them.
Besides, you can encourage them to use a smartphone or notebook to create reminders themselves. If their safety is not endangered, letting them do certain tasks (especially if they love doing it) like cooking, in the early stages of this neurodegenerative disease is good for everyone.
Get Professional Help
Caring for someone with dementia is undoubtedly stressful. According to an estimate, family caregivers dedicate nearly 22 hours per week to support dementia patients. On average, they provide care for about 5 years or more.
Given that many of them have children and full-time jobs, there isn’t enough time for self-care or even senior care. In such a scenario, working with a professional caregiver is the right choice.
With some professional help, you will be able to balance different responsibilities efficiently. Besides, it’ll make sure that the senior’s needs are not being neglected unintendedly. If you don’t pay heed to your own mental and physical health, you cannot care for your children or the elderly.
When you seek professional help, you can finally find the time to take care of yourself!
Bonus Tip: How to Talk to Someone with Dementia
As dementia progresses to its advanced stages, you will notice gradual changes in the way seniors communicate. They display behaviours of confusion and experience trouble finding the right words.
Besides, they may repeat certain things or substitute the right word with a wrong one because of their confusion. Even inappropriate outbursts may become common in this illness. It takes a lot of patience on the caregiver’s part to not only manage their own frustrations but also make communication easier.
Learn how to talk to someone with dementia with these tips:
- Listen attentively: Seniors with dementia may have a hard time explaining things to you. For this reason, you should give your complete attention to them during communication and avoid distractions such as cell phones or TV.
- Be aware of body language: Nonverbal cues, tone of voice, and facial expressions are essential in any communication. Try to maintain an open posture, stay calm, and make eye contact while talking to the elderly.
- Speak slowly: Your elderly loved one suffering from dementia takes more time to process everything. Therefore, you want to use short sentences, ask one thing at a time, and repeat if necessary.
- Avoid memory-challenging questions: People with dementia gradually lose long-term or even short-term memory. Hence, you should avoid asking questions that would likely be answered as a “no.”
- Maintain respect: Using sarcasm, or patronizing language can confuse or hurt them.
- Take a break: As mentioned before, inappropriate outbursts may happen while trying to interact with seniors. However, they don’t know any better. It’s best to then take a break to regain your composure instead of letting your anger out on them.
- Never avoid them: At some point, seniors with dementia may become unresponsive to most things as they lose their memory. However, you must never talk in front of them like they aren’t there in the room. If they are physically present, always include them in your conversations. Because they may not remember, they can still hear you, and ignoring them might hurt their feelings.
These tips would be pretty valuable while supporting seniors with dementia. Apart from that, it’s crucial to turn to professional help to ensure your mental and physical wellbeing and that of your loved one.