Dementia is a difficult illness to cope with, both for the patient and caregivers too. Some tips can help include: knowing how to help, altering how you communicate, using touch and even music or massages may help. Sleeping problems, dietary issues, incontinence, and hallucinations may require medical attention.
With one person in the world developing dementia every 3 seconds and an estimated 50 million or more people living with the condition worldwide, dementia is a very real problem. Getting the right care is necessary to maintaining a good quality of life for those coping with this disorder. Apart from affecting the life quality of those with dementia, it also affect those around them.
READ ALSO: Risk Factors for Dementia
Dementia Causes Loss Of Cognitive And Behavioral Function
Dementia leads to the loss of both cognitive and behavioral functions, most common in the elderly. It can affect problem-solving ability, visual perception, ability to reason, ability to remember, ability to manage one’s own life, and even behavior and personality due to lack of control on emotions. While some amount of nerve loss in the brain is normal as one grows older,
The Changing Needs And Habits Of Someone With Dementia
As dementia progresses, you may notice changes in these areas:
- Eating patterns, likes, and dislikes
- Continence or ability to control when they answer nature’s call
- Sleeping habits
7 Tips On How To Care For Someone With Dementia
Communicate with them slowly and patiently
Lack of communication can be the root of problems for many caregivers. Use physical touch to help communicate. If a person with dementia is having a hallucination, a gentle pat from you might draw them out of their frightening hallucination back to reality. Sometimes touching, holding hands, hugging, and praise will get the person to respond well.
READ ALSO: Dementia: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention
- Be positive, pleasant, and respectful: As a caregiver, you should be affectionate in both your tone of voice and facial expression as well as your body language and touch.
- Cut off distractions:Before you speak to the person, get rid of distractions. Ambient noise like a television or street sounds can be quite distracting. Close off the window so they can hear you better, or turn down or turn off the television.
- Address the person by nameso you have their attention before you talk.
- Speak slowly and clearly:For you to be easily understood, you should speak slowly. You should sound comforting and soothing to the other person. Avoid raising your voice or getting exasperated. This will only lead to communication break down.
- Simplify your questions: Frame questions so that they can simply reply with a yes or no.
- Look for nonverbal communication: If you’re not getting a verbal reply, use nonverbal communication.
- Use nonverbal cues yourself: To help slightly indicate things to them when you see them struggle, you can use nonverbal cues. For instance, if they can’t remember where their glasses are, you could gently nod with your chin in the right direction or reassure them with a look, or subtly tap on the drawer where they’re stored.
- If you see them getting upset or agitated, change the topic or change the scene. For instance, suggest an alternative activity like a walk or play music they like.
- Use humor to your advantage. Be humorous to keep things light and possibly even make them laugh and feel better in that moment.
- Avoid trying to prove them wrong.A person with dementia often get confused about reality and recall things that never really occurred. Avoid trying to convince them they are wrong. Even if you know they’re remembering something that didn’t happen, be gentle. Stay focused on the feelings they are demonstrating (which are real) and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support, and reassurance.
- Focus on older history, avoid questions relating to the recent past. Because of how dementia manifests, a person is often very clear about what happened decades ago though they may have no memory of last week or even that morning. Talk about things they do remember – it could be school or college memories, or something they did when they were younger.
Recognize Triggers For Difficult Behavior And Stay Calm
People with dementia can be delusional. If someone with dementia experiences are severe and may put them or you, the caregiver, at possible risk or harm, it is best to speak to a doctor to see if some medication may be required.
Apart from delusions, a person with dementia can be vulnerable to depression, anxiety, agitation, aggression, and loss of inhibition. While anxiety and depression issues may need to be dealt with the help of a trained mental health professional, the other behavior may have to be managed by you. You can cope with difficult behavior like violence by observing the points below:
- Identify triggers for the behavior to see if they can be fixed. Pain can often be the cause for the erratic behavior.
- Remain calm.
- Don’t take the behavior personally. It is not directed at you.
- Avoid arguments and confrontation.
- Accept this as a symptom of the illness
Keep up social connections
Music therapy or just playing some pleasing, quiet music, a massage, or exercise can help the mood and behavior of people with dementia. Unfortunately, the research on these alternative therapies is not far-reaching enough to suggest them as treatment or therapy for dementia patients, but you could see if these work for your loved one.
Encourage people to visit and meet with the dementia patient. Sometimes the embarrassment or fear of others seeing the changed behavior, personality, and memory of the individual can be discouraging when it comes to receiving visitors. To deal with this, keep up their routines as interesting as possible. If they were a weekly church-goer, go to church with them. If they liked walking in the park every evening, they should continue to do so, but with someone to help them if they forget their way home. According to researchers, dementia patients who indulged in as little as 60 minutes of conversation every week experienced reduced agitation levels.
Give them the proper nutrition
Someone with dementia may forget to eat balanced and nutritious meals, making them vulnerable to deficiencies and malnutrition. So, it is essential to keep track of their diet. Due to an inability to express what they want at times, a person with dementia may not be able to say they are hungry or ask for what they need. Keep food and snacks and drinks readily available and visible to them so they can help themselves.
Help them stay organized
A person with dementia may need help with their daily tasks and life. Having a set routine can help. Don’t do everything for them, this might make them feel useless. Instead, have them do things with you or help with little jobs around the house. If tasks seem overwhelming, break it down into simpler steps for them. You could even use notes or little posters at critical locations to help them remember what to do or how to do something.
Deal with Personal Hygiene And Incontinence
Some issues the elderly with dementia have to deal with are incontinence, urinary tract infections, constipation, and lots of others. They may sometimes forget the need to use the toilet or even where the toilet actually is. You can take care of this issue by placing a signpost that reads toilet with a board, keep the door open for easy access, and ensure the person wears clothes that are easy to remove by using a zipper instead of buttons. The fear of falling or becoming disoriented might prevent someone with dementia from washing regularly. Some patients may allow a caregiver to help with this or be present when they are bathing.
Don’t forget to care for yourself too
Joining a carers’ group can be a good way for you to find people who truly relate to the situation you are in. It is a good place to share and talk it out or learn coping methods others use to care for those with dementia. Social services or a dementia adviser or counselor can direct you to a local group. On the other hand, there are plenty of online support groups you could consider joining.
Try and give yourself a little break too even if it’s for a day or two. If that isn’t possible, check options for day help from a professional caregiving service or daycare center for seniors. This should avail you the opportunity to go out and have fun.