5 Tips for Helping a Loved One With Dementia
Most people experience “senior moments” when they think they’ve lost their keys or their glasses, only to find the former in their coat pocket and the latter on top of their head. Dementia, however, is different: a progressive, incurable condition, dementia robs a person of memories, including their children’s names and where they live, and can make daily living a frustrating and frightening experience.
These five tips for helping a loved one with dementia can improve their quality of life and help you cope with a changed relationship.
Meet a New Version of a Familiar Person
Dementia can make it seem like your loved one has become someone else. A formerly calm, happy person can become irritable and snappish. Understand that the person experiencing memory loss and reduced abilities may get frightened and confused by their condition.
Your loved one is still the person you knew in the past—they just have a new aspect to themselves that will take some adaptation. It’s not fair to get angry or irritated with a person suffering from a disease.
Keeping a consistent routine helps a person who has dementia feel some sense of control. Knowing how their day will go in advance or what’s coming next makes them feel less anxious about their safety and autonomy.
Routine also gives people something to look forward to: make sure you don’t set up your loved one for disappointment. Be sure that what you put on the schedule will happen as planned. Otherwise, your loved one could become agitated and upset.
Exercise Body and Brain
Dementia can lead to depression, which can lead to inactivity. Plan regular walks or activities involving moving the body that your loved one enjoys. Dance, dig in the garden, or do household chores together.
Incorporate some brain builders into the daily routine. Crossword or jigsaw puzzles, art projects, or encouraging a loved one to relate stories from the past helps them use their cognitive abilities positively. While they may not remember that they just asked you the same question five minutes ago, people with dementia often remember favorite songs or family stories from the distant past.
Respect and Patience
It’s essential for your loved one to feel your respect. Don’t use baby talk or phrases like “how are we today?” Your loved one is an adult, so you need to treat them like one. Use their name or the honorific you always called them by (“Grandma,” “Aunt Bess,” “Mr. Hollingsworth,” etc.).
Decrease Stress and Minimize Frustrations
Removing sources of stress and frustration is important in helping a loved one with dementia. Give them clothing that’s easy to put on, like pull-on pants and shoes with Velcro closures.
Don’t allow confrontational family members to visit, and avoid disagreements with your loved one. If it isn’t essential to convince the person you’re caring for that what they believe isn’t true, don’t argue about it.
There may come a time when caring for your loved one is too difficult to do alone. Caring Hearts Premier home care provides in-home care in Palm Desert, CA. Orange County and Palm Springs residents can count on us for compassionate care for dementia patients.