Caring for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Not only do caregivers have to deal with their own emotional states, but also they are likely to face a huge range of unfamiliar responsibilities as their loved one loses the ability to care for themselves.
If you are in the difficult position of caring for a loved one with cognitive memory decline, bearing the following things in mind should help to make the process a bit smoother.
What to Expect
Perhaps you’ve noticed strange changes in your parent or loved one of late, such as letting mail pile up, forgetting to eat or sleeping at odd hours. These are all typical symptoms of dementia and dementia-related disorders.
As dementia progresses, you may notice other changes in behavior, including:
- Inappropriate behavior
- Loss of toilet habits or hygiene routines
- Trouble with day-to-day routines, such as getting dressed
Keeping a healthy routine, exercising regularly, ensuring regular meal times and keeping them engaged as much as possible will be key to offering them a good quality of life.
It’s important to understand that your loved one may become frustrated and agitated at times, especially if they feel like you are trying to control them.
Here are a few things to bear in mind:
- Identify triggers: As far as the patient is concerned, they’re doing what they’re doing for a reason. If you can figure out why they are doing a certain thing, you can help them to find what they need, or redirect their attention to something else.
- Record and report: Stay on top of shifts and changes in overall behavior and write them down so that they can be accurately reported to health professionals. The doctor may understand certain reasons behind the behavior that you would not, such as a need to change medication.
- Stay flexible and accommodating where possible: For behavior that is unusual but not harmful, it’s a good idea to try to accommodate their needs. For instance, if they insist on wearing dirty clothes, this is not the end of the world, and pushing them too much will likely agitate them.
Everyone has to learn how to understand and communicate differently with their loved ones as the disease progresses.
Here are a few tips:
- Keep it simple: Always be clear and simple with your words, breaking down large pieces of information into manageable steps and simple choices.
- Combine different ways of communicating: Get creative about communicating and explaining. For instance, you may need to point at an object if they don’t understand what you are saying.
- Read between the lines: If a person loses their words, you may be able to tell by their gaze or body positioning that they are uncomfortable or frustrated.
- Distraction is okay: If the person is confused, it’s okay to take charge of the situation and change the focus of the conversation. For instance, consider using “and” not “but” if you are having a conversation that seems to be leading nowhere.
- Stay present: It’s important to meet them where they are at whenever possible, staying light and using humor to redirect them whenever they are feeling agitated or confused.
Consider Assisted Living
Though your loved one may only be experiencing minor symptoms, it’s important to be aware that non-professional primary caregivers will experience burnout as the disease progresses. This is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about—the important thing is that you find support however you can.
If you are currently experiencing this or you feel that you will soon be unable to offer your loved one adequate care, speak with a trusted assisted living memory care professional as soon as possible to learn about your options.