There’s nothing more heart-wrenching than watching your loved one fall victim to dementia — seeing them struggle with their basic recollection, explode in sudden bursts of rage, and experience random episodes of paranoia.
Globally, there are 50 million individuals who have dementia. This disease comes with old age and poses no cure. It weakens an aging person’s memory, decision-making capacity, and emotional control all at once. Indeed, taking care of a family member with dementia is a physically exhausting and emotionally challenging task to take on.
So, to help you out on this taxing responsibility, here are several ways you can become a better caregiver to a loved one battling with dementia:
Adjust Your Communication Style
You have to walk on eggshells when dealing with a family member with dementia. Refrain from overwhelming them with multiple orders and questions. You have to speak in short sentences, so it’s easier for them to understand. You also have to watch the tone of your voice. Avoid using a high-pitched voice or an ear-piercing tone. If you don’t want to put them in a state of panic, it’s best to use a lower pitch when you speak. If they fail to understand your message, you can gently repeat it for them. If you see them struggling, you can suggest words to help them communicate their thoughts. It’s also important to look into their body language to see what they’re trying to tell you. You have to be patient with your loved ones and understand that dementia affects even the most basic cognitive functions.
Show Concern and Affection
You might have been accustomed to dealing with a calm and collected person a few years ago, but dementia makes it difficult for aging individuals to regulate their emotions. They can’t curb sudden feelings of anger, fear, distress, and agitation like they used to. You have to understand that people with dementia suffer from intense levels of anxiety and paranoia. Your job is to offer them some comfort, relief, and support amid their constant state of confusion. You can express your affection and concern by praising them, squeezing their hands, stroking their arms, or locking them in an embrace.
Engage in Stimulating Conversation
People with dementia struggle with short-term memory, but they can recall events in the distant past. If they begin to talk about their yesteryears, actively engage in conversation with them. Listen intently as they ramble on about their fondest memories. Refrain from asking questions about sensitive details or scarring moments in their lives, such as the death of a partner or family member. Also, avoid quizzing them on the specific information they might struggle to remember as this may only trigger a wave of negative emotions.
Ensure All-Around Safety
When living with a loved one with dementia, you have to safety-proof your home. Their intense forgetfulness and impulsive demeanor can put them in danger. Keep their doors locked to prevent them from wandering. It’s best to limit their access to other areas of the house to reduce potential risks. But make sure to give other family members spare keys just in case you’re not around.
Aside from that, you shouldn’t let them take a stroll outside the house unattended. There are more dangers outdoors, especially for aging individuals. If your home doesn’t have a proper roof gutter system in place, your backyard and patio area will become extremely slip-prone, particularly during the rainy season. So make sure your outdoor spaces are elder-proof as well. Moreover, when left alone, they might wander far and get lost in the neighborhood. As a safety precaution, you can make use of GPS technology to keep track of your loved ones. Some trackers come in the form of a watch, necklace, and belt.
Encourage Hygiene Habits
Some aging individuals hate taking a bath. However, you have to encourage them to prioritize their hygiene. You can lure them into showering by associating the activity with an incentive. You also have to make sure that the bathroom is installed with handlebars and stools, as this would make bathing more convenient for them. You have to check the temperature of the water before spritzing since elders are extremely sensitive to temperature. As you help them clean themselves, you have to give them a heads up before administering each step so you won’t catch them off guard.
Reduce External Noise
Individuals with dementia find it difficult to process sensory stimuli in their environment. When their senses are overwhelmed, expect extreme behavioral changes in them. So it’s best to reduce the noise in their immediate environment. If you want to play music inside the house, you can choose specific pieces your loved one prefers. If not, you can refrain from using background music on speaker mode.
More so, try to reduce the noises you make inside the house as this might startle them. They might also misinterpret sudden loud sounds such as alarm clocks, phone ringtones, squeaky floorboards, and doorbells, so it’s best to make appropriate adjustments in every area of your household.
Taking care of a loved one with dementia is a challenging task, so you have to educate yourself on the best way to go about it. We hope that these tips are helpful in your quest to learn more about effective elderly caregiving.