With over 10 million new cases of dementia being recorded every year, more people may have to become part-time caregivers than ever before. One of the most common questions that arise, involves ways people can help seniors who have early on stage dementia.
Caregiving is a tough and demanding job, but it can be every bit as rewarding as it is challenging. It can become more difficult as your loved one’s cognitive, functional, and physical abilities start to diminish over time. It’s hard to not become overwhelmed when tasked with home care for dementia patients. But there are strategies you can learn to make your journey as a caregiver more effective and rewarding.
1. Brace for the journey ahead
There’s no telling how it will progress over the years. But you can prepare for the future by setting reasonable expectations. In the early stages of dementia, your loved ones will retain their independence, but their cognitive and physical health will ultimately decline and require round-the-clock care.
Now is the time to create a roadmap for care. Paying for outside help can be helpful, so try to research all your options now. Talk to the patient’s family members and the medical team to make legal financial arrangements and figure out long term solutions for you and the patient.
2. Develop a Support Plan
People with dementia lose the ability to do normal activities and care for their own needs. They may have difficulty eating, going to the bathroom, or taking care of their personal hygiene. They may wander away, get lost, or become injured. They may develop complicated health problems such as pneumonia, infections, falls, and fractures.
Get help. You won’t be able to do it alone all the time. Try to reach out to your family, friends, and volunteer groups to help out in little ways. Accepting help for trivial errands such as cleaning and grocery shopping can free you up some time with the patient. Make sure to schedule breaks every few hours and pursue other hobbies to look after your own mental health.
Remember, you’re not being disloyal to your loved one by looking after your own health.
Talk to someone who cares. It’s important to prioritize your mental health by talking to someone you trust. It could be a family member, friend, or therapist. The mere act of talking with someone who cares can be elevating.
3. Keep Up With Changes in Communication
You will notice subtle changes in how your loved one communicates as dementia progresses. They will find it difficult to recollect words, resort to hand gestures, and easily get confused. It’s easy to see how these patients can get frustrated with their increasing inability to communicate properly. Here are the do’s and don’ts of dealing with this situation.
- Keep communication as simple as possible
- Reintroduce yourself to the patient every few hours
- Call the patient by name
- Speak slowly to the patient
- Use simple questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
- If something hasn’t been understood, try to say the same things differently. Use a simpler phrase without as many words.
- Lie if telling the truth will upset the patient. For example, you can deflect the question, “Where is my wife?” with something like She isn’t here right now”, instead of saying, “she isn’t alive anymore.”
- Repeat your statement as much as is necessary.
- Use accusatory statements such as, “Did you forget”, “How do you not know that?”, and “Try to remember!” These questions can make the patient increasingly uncomfortable and exacerbate the situation.
- Point out the flaws in the person’s memory
- Talk in front of them as if they aren’t there
- Talk in long paragraphs.
- Talk to them in a patronizing manner
- Use sarcastic statements
- Use unfamiliar lingo and slangs
4. Develop a Daily Routine
It helps to have a general routine when looking after patients with dementia. These routines don’t have to be rigid but can give the caregiver a sense of guidance, which can be helpful if the patient has lost their ability to communicate.
A routine can help:
Establish a sense of familiarity. A consistent schedule for activities such as eating, bathing, dressing, waking up, and sleeping can make life easier for the patient with early stage of dementia.
Set expectations even if they don’t completely understand everything. Most caregivers use cues to signal different times of the day. For example, at night, you can close the curtains. At the morning, you can open the shades to let light in and indicate that it’s time to get wake up.
Get the patient to participate in activities they can still do. For example, they may not be able to wash the dishes, but they may be able to put on their clothes and water the plants.
5. Arrange Social Events and Invite Visitors
Living with dementia can be a lonely experience for many patients. This is why it helps to arrange social events and invite visitors on a regular basis for the caregiver to socialize. It also gives you an opportunity to take a break.
A few tips for social events:
- Plan social events at a time of day when the patient can best process them
- Educate any visitors about do’s and don’ts when near the patients
- Focus on activities that won’t excessively stimulate the patient
For best results, get in touch with an expert home health agency in Broward County and seek help. At DAVIDSHIELD HOME CARE, our mission is to ensure all seniors and patients with disabilities and dementia can get the help they need. Click here to get in touch with us to learn more.