It’s not easy to adjust when a loved one starts showing signs of dementia. Dementia usually goes hand-in-hand with memory loss, deterioration in intellect, rationality, social and cognitive skills, so it is not uncommon that your loved one may be reacting to everyday situations differently, show different thought patterns, unusual behaviours, or difficulty in performing everyday tasks.
As a result, you may be finding it difficult to come to terms with these changes, feel overwhelmed, or at a loss for options. But there are always resources available and a multitude of tips and techniques to help manage both you and your loved one’s situation in a way that may reduce that feeling of overwhelm.
When caring for a loved one with dementia, it is important to understand that their behaviours will change, along with their lifestyle, and you may need to be flexible to incorporate your loved one’s needs into your life too.
Here are five tips which may be useful when caring for a loved one with dementia:
- Plan ahead
Dementia affects memory, and so your loved one may lose track of simple routine tasks like bathing, changing clothes, or feeding pets. The best way to keep track is to create a routine for these activities, and stick to it each day—don’t try to change familiar environments, and use checklists to act as reminders.
- Make the house safe
Lack of mobility might mean your loved one will face difficulty getting around the house. Consider installing handrails in baths, showers and toilets, and using large fonts on time-orienting objects like clocks and calendars.
- Consider communication difficulties
Your loved one’s method of communication may change when they are affected by dementia. They may find it difficult to speak fluently, understand simple sentences, or accurately express emotions. The best way to communicate with your loved one is to use short, simple sentences, keep calm while responding to them, and use positive body language.
- Monitor their nutrition needs
People with dementia often forget to eat and drink, and sometimes lose control over chewing and swallowing, so it is important to monitor their eating and drinking habits. Offer them easy-to-chew food and drinks regularly (5-6 times a day), and set an alarm to remind yourself about their mealtimes.
- Make the most of professional help and support
The Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) perform assessments for older people with dementia to determine their needs for home-based support or residential care. There is also a variety of dementia care groups such as Alzheimer’s Australia and National Dementia Helpline that can offer assistance.
There is no one-size-fits-all care routine for people with dementia—every person has a unique situation and living arrangement, and as such, care needs to be tailored to cater to their personal needs.
The type of support a person needs is strongly dependent on their individual situation and the symptoms that come with their stage of dementia.
It is important to seek professional help if at any point, caring for your loved one feels overwhelming for you. There are resources and care groups who can take some of that burden off your shoulders, especially with government subsidies.
Jon Kontopos, CEO of Dementia Caring