If one of your loved ones has recently been diagnosed with dementia, you may be wondering how you are going to cope with their care. Fortunately, there is more help and support than ever before for families struggling with dementia, with local resources all over the country.
To help you provide the best possible care both for your loved one and for yourself as a caregiver, the below blog will tell you everything you need to know about looking after someone with dementia.
There are over 50 million people worldwide who are living with dementia, with someone new developing this devasting disease every 3 seconds. In the United States alone, there are at least 5 million people living with age-related dementia, and this is set to double in the next 20 years. If your loved one has been recently diagnosed, they may be struggling to come to terms with their condition and will need all the support and positivity they can get. Although this may seem like the hardest thing in the world to do, you need to remain positive when caring for someone with dementia.
There are many ways to showcase positivity, including:
- Keeping your tone of voice upbeat
- Using calm body language
- Controlling your facial expressions
- Using touch to show affection
Of course, there may be times when your emotions get the better of you but try and minimize these occurrences as much as you can when you are with your loved one.
Seek out support
Being a sole caregiver can be a very lonely existence, especially during the later stages of dementia. However, you don’t have to manage alone. Whether you need physical help with the daily needs of your loved one or you crave emotional support, there are so many free resources for families members of people living with dementia.
If you are thinking about using a home care agency to help with day-to-day tasks, make sure that you select one where the staff have undertaken CareAcademy dementia training or another accredited training program so that you know your loved one is being properly taken care of.
It can become all too easy for you to throw all your energy into helping your loved one and neglect to care for yourself.
While you understandably want to be there for your parent, partner, sibling, or friend, if you don’t take the time to look after yourself, you won’t be able to offer them a good level of care.
There are several self-care techniques and activities that you can try which will help safeguard your physical and mental health, including:
- Mindful breathing
- Reading a book
- Taking a bath
- Going for a walk
- Spending time with friends
Whatever it is that you like doing and that helps you relax, make sure you take the time to do it. Caregiver burnout is all too common and can take months to recover from.
Stick to a routine
People with dementia need a rigid daily routine, even in the early stages, so you need to make sure you create a daily regime that works for you both and that you stick to it.
Make sure that you get up, eat meals, bathe, and go to bed at the same time each day and that you plan any activities that your loved one likes to do at times when you know they are at their best.
It can be a good idea to help your loved one to remember appointments and events by placing a calendar in a highly visible place in your home. To-do lists can also help to keep your loved one independent for longer, as can medication reminders such as automated pill dispensers.
Ensure a balanced diet
You need to make sure that your loved one is eating a balanced and nutritious diet as this can help to keep them fit and healthy for longer.
Most notably, people with dementia tend to forget to drink throughout the day, which can lead to dehydration, which can cause further disorientation. A lack of fluids can also lead to other health complaints such as urinary tract infections, constipation, and headaches.
Food-wise, people with dementia can experience issues such as not recognizing foods, forgetting what foods and drinks they like, and asking for strange food combinations.
To help your loved one prepare for meals and continue to enjoy the eating experience, you can try:
- Allowing more time for meals
- Offering small portions of the foods you know they like
- Trying stronger or sweeter flavors
- Providing finger food if they struggle with cutlery
- Offering fluids in colored cups that are easy to grasp
Support their sleep
People with dementia will often experience problems with their sleep patterns. They may get up often in the night and are likely to be disorientated when they do so. They may also try to get dressed and start their day.
While this can be tough on you as a caregiver, there are ways that you can help prevent this from happening.
Dementia clocks are hugely popular and are designed to show whether it is day or night as well as the time of day, which can help people with dementia to understand whether they should be in bed or awake.
It can also be a good idea to limit daytime naps and avoid any caffeine or alcohol in the evenings.
Plan for the future
Although you may be managing to care for your loved one now, as their disease progresses, you need to accept that they will probably need some form of residential care.
Of course, even though the thought of this can be deeply distressing, you need to make sure you are planning for the future. This includes financial planning, as in how are you going to pay for any specialized care they need, and care facility planning, as in identifying the most appropriate care options in your local area.
If possible, you may also want to talk to your loved one about their thoughts on long-term care and what they want later down the line.
Remember that their care requirements will increase over time, so the sooner you plan ahead, the more seamless any necessary transitions will be.