How to Handle Dementia in Loved Ones
Coping with dementia in parents or another relative can be challenging. You may feel sad, worried or shocked after hearing the diagnosis and unsure of your next steps. It can be stressful to know how to address the changes or understand what your family member may need. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to cope with these complex emotions.
How to Cope With a Dementia Diagnosis
When a family member receives a dementia diagnosis, you may feel a range of emotions all at once. Many people undergo a period of intense grief and feelings of shock, followed by denial and sadness. You may worry about how you will face these significant life changes and feel demoralized or angry about the future. At the same time, the diagnosis may provide a sense of relief by validating your suspicions and allowing you to seek appropriate support.
The following are a few tips about how to deal with dementia in a parent or someone close to you:
1. Allow Time to Adjust
Hearing that a close relative has dementia can cause shock. Be gentle and allow yourself to feel the emotions as they appear rather than deny them. You’ll have an easier time accepting the news and devising a dementia care plan.
Understanding dementia and its progression can help you cope with changes. You’ll also know what to expect when you learn how dementia impacts a person’s physical and cognitive functions. Remember that knowledge can be powerful.
3. Prioritize Rest
You may have trouble resting after a day of caregiving. You might also lose sleep worrying about a dementia diagnosis, which can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. Not having someone to relieve you at the end of the day can lead to stress, resentment and even depression.
It’s essential to rest when you can and prioritize time for yourself. Keep the day structured and predictable and your environment uncluttered. Pacing yourself and giving yourself time to rest will make all the difference for your mental health and allow you to better care for your family member.
4. Make Time for Exercise
A daily walk at the park or around the block can be an effective antidepressant for both of you. It can also help relieve stress and anxiety throughout your relative’s illness. If needed, keep a transport wheelchair to broaden your options for exercise while running errands. You’ll get to spend time together while improving your mental and physical health.
How to Handle Common Dementia Symptoms and Behaviors
Remembering things, thinking clearly, communicating and caring for themselves may be a struggle for people with dementia. Dementia can even cause mood swings or changes to a person’s personality or behavior.
Keep reading to learn some practical strategies for managing behavioral problems and communication difficulties often encountered when caring for someone with dementia:
People with dementia may wander for several reasons, including boredom, medication side effects or confusion. They might also be trying to fulfill a physical need such as a need to use the toilet, eat or exercise. To help with this behavioral symptom of dementia, you might:
- Schedule time for regular exercise to minimize restlessness.
- Consider installing locks that require a key.
- Add child-safe plastic covers to doorknobs.
- Install a home security or monitoring system to watch over your family member.
- Have your relative wear an ID bracelet or sew ID labels to their clothing.
- Tell neighbors about your relative’s wandering behavior and ensure they have your phone number.
As the disease progresses, it’s common for people with dementia to experience rapidly changing moods and angry outbursts. In fact, behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) affect up to 97% of patients with dementia who live in a community setting.
Agitation can be triggered by various things, from environmental factors to fear and fatigue. At this time, it can be highly beneficial to give each other space and take time for privacy. In heated moments or times of stress, leaving the room for a few minutes can provide peace and allow both parties to calm down.
Speak in a reassuring voice, and don’t attempt to restrain a person when they are agitated. Support their independence and allow them to care for themselves as much as possible. You might also try distracting them during stressful moments with a snack or activity.
Repetitive Speech or Actions
People with dementia often repeat certain words, questions or activities. While this behavior is usually harmless for the person with dementia, it can be stressful to caregivers. Repetitive speech or actions are often triggered by boredom, fear, anxiety or environmental factors.
Similar to handling agitation, provide plenty of comfort and reassurance. Try to ignore the behavior and instead play soothing music or distract them with an activity.
Communication issues typically occur in people with dementia, though you can learn ways to improve them. Working on your communication skills can make caregiving easier and enhance the quality of your relationship with your family member. It can also help you handle any problematic behavior that may occur. Tips for handling communication issues with ease include:
- Setting a mood for the interaction with positive body language, facial expressions, physical touch and tone of voice.
- Limiting noise distractions before speaking and maintaining eye contact.
- Stating your message clearly with simple words and sentences.
- Asking simple, answerable questions one at a time.
- Maintaining a positive, reassuring tone.
- Being patient in waiting for replies and suggesting words if they struggle for an answer.
- Changing the subject if they become agitated.
- Responding with affection.
How to Help With Dementia
Keep reading for some at-home dementia caregiver tips:
1. Support Their Independence
As mentioned, agitation in people with dementia can be triggered by a lack of control, and your family member may feel as if they don’t need help. While many activities likely require your assistance, try to support their independence as much as possible. Give them space to handle their emotions and daily tasks on their own. For example, laying out articles of clothing one a time can facilitate dressing and preparing finger foods can help them eat on their own with less difficulty.
2. Set up Routines and Expectations
Many people with dementia may believe they don’t need help, causing a power struggle over daily tasks. By clearly defining your roles and routines, you can avoid conflicts and help you both feel more settled. Delegate tasks for cleaning and eating to create a peaceful environment when caring for someone with dementia.
Following a routine can also help you cope with the changes after a diagnosis and ensure a smoother transition into caregiving.
3. Seek Counseling Services
When caregivers and people with dementia seek treatment for their depression, they gain better access to care, services and support. It’s essential that you open up about your experiences rather than bottling up your emotions. Having someone to talk to regularly who can provide support, education and coaching through the stages of progression can significantly benefit your and your family member’s mental health.
4. Hire a Professional Caregiver
It can be challenging to juggle your family and home life, job responsibilities and caregiving. It’s okay to hire a professional caregiver when you’re overwhelmed or don’t have anyone to relieve you of your duties. Professionals can provide enrichment, assistance with daily tasks and companionship for your family member when you need some physical and emotional space.
When You Need Some Extra Support, Corewood Care Is Ready to Help
Coping with dementia in parents or close relatives can be challenging, especially when you are their sole caregiver. It’s important to know that you are never alone, and it’s perfectly fine to reach out for help when you need it.
Corewood Care has some of the best caregivers in the industry who are available to deliver in-home dementia care. Being in a familiar setting and maintaining their routine can make all the difference in your family member’s well-being. We also provide supervision and patient wellness monitoring to look after and record their physical, mental and emotional health.
To schedule a free assessment, contact us today.