Tips for Families of People With Dementia.

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Caring for someone with dementia poses immense challenges. From managing changes in behavior and communication to ensuring proper nutrition and hygiene, it’s an overwhelmingly demanding role. However, with the right strategies and support, you can make the caregiver journey as smooth and rewarding as possible. This blog covers a range of tips to help you provide the best care while also taking care of your own needs. By understanding the disease process and implementing these strategies, you can minimize stress for both the patient and yourself.

 What is Dementia?

Dementia refers to a progressive decline in mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. The most common types are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. People with dementia experience increasing difficulties with memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior that affects their ability to function independently.

As dementia progresses, it can also cause mood and personality changes. Patients may become confused, suspicious, depressed, anxious, or agitated. They gradually lose the ability to perform routine daily activities like bathing, dressing, eating, or handling finances.

The rate of progression varies per individual, but seeking help from caregivers and Alzheimer’s home care services is crucial for both patient quality of life and caregiver well-being. With the right care approach and strategies, you can make a positive difference.

Tips for Everyday Care

In early stages, implement strategies to help patients continue daily routines independently for as long as possible. This will include:

  • Establish consistent daily schedules for meals, bathing, activities, and medications. Post written schedules if needed.
  • Use reminder notes, calendars, and to-do lists to reinforce routines and tasks.
  • Consider comfortable, easy-to-wear clothing that doesn’t require much dexterity like zippers or buttons.
  • Install safety features like grab bars in bathrooms and use non-slip bath mats to prevent falls. You can buy shower chairs at drug stores and medical supply stores.
  • Serve meals in a calm, familiar environment and allow extra time for eating. Consider finger foods if utensils become difficult.
  • Keep tasks simple and allow patients to do as much as possible independently with gentle encouragement.

As abilities decline, you may need to take a more hands-on approach. Use calm, reassuring explanations for each step and allow extra time for tasks. Focus on preserving dignity during personal care.

Tips for Communication and Behavior Changes

Dementia impairs the ability to use and understand language. Patients may also become anxious, angry or depressed. To help patient with dementia consider these tips:

  • Speak calmly, make eye contact, and use short, simple phrases.
  • Introduce yourself each time and avoid questions like “Don’t you remember me?”
  • Distract with calming activities if the patient seems upset, like looking at photos or listening to music.
  • Give one-step instructions and allow time for responses without pressure.
  • Reassure the patient if they seem anxious and respect their personal space.
  • Incorporate favorite activities and objects to increase comfort and 
  • familiarity.

With patience and understanding, you can help minimize frustration during interactions and keep communication positive. Don’t argue over facts; focus on emotional connection instead.

Tips for Wandering

Many patients wander due to restlessness, boredom or confusion about time/place. To reduce risk:

  • Install door/window locks out of reach and consider home monitoring systems.
  • Distract with activities suited to the patient’s abilities. 
  • Provide identification like bracelets in case the patient wanders outside alone.
  • Alert neighbors and provide your contact details in case the patient is found wandering.
  • Consider GPS tracking devices that can locate the patient if they wander from home.
  • Minimize triggers like leaving coats/keys in easy reach that may prompt going outside.
  • Note patterns like wandering more at certain times of day and increase supervision accordingly.

With environmental modifications and engaging daily routines, you can help satisfy patient needs safely at home for as long as possible.

Tips for Nutrition and Exercise

Maintaining proper nutrition and hydration can be difficult when caring for a loved one with dementia. As the disease progresses, patients may forget the need to eat and drink on their own. Other factors can also interfere, such as dental issues, medications that decrease appetite or alter taste perception. When nutritional intake is inadequate, it can negatively impact health and quality of life in several ways. Poor eating may lead to weight loss, irritability, sleep problems, and bladder or bowel issues over time. It can also cause increased confusion and disorientation. As a caregiver, it’s important to prioritize dietary support strategies.

Some key tactics include:  

  • Offer small, frequent meals and snacks instead of 3 large meals which are harder to manage.
  • Provide finger foods and pre-cut items that are easy to eat independently.
  • Sit together for meals in a quiet, low-stimulation environment.
  • Keep a variety of easy-to-prepare healthy foods on hand.
  • Be patient during meals and allow extra time without pressure to finish.
  • If swallowing is problematic, try gently massaging the muscles under the chin in a chewing motion to stimulate swallowing reflexes. Light throat stroking can also help prompt swallowing.

Tips for Personal Hygiene

People with dementia often find it difficult to remember “normal” bodily functions like brushing their teeth, going to the bathroom, bathing, and changing their clothes. We’ve been taught since we were kids that these are very private and personal things; to have someone else undress us and clean us up can be scary, demeaning, and embarrassing. Because of this, bathing is often a source of distress for people with dementia, their caregivers, and their families.

  • Note past routines and preferences to increase comfort level.
  • Use safety equipment like grab bars, shower chairs and non-slip surfaces.
  • Keep bathing areas warm, well-lit and private with doors closed.
  • Have all supplies ready and explain each step in a calming voice.
  • Consider towel baths instead of showers/tubs if too stressful.
  • Break tasks into smaller steps if needed, like separate hair washing.
  • Be patient, move slowly and reassure the patient to reduce anxiety.

Tips for Caregiver Self-Care

Caring for a loved one with dementia is physically and emotionally taxing. To avoid burnout:

  • Ask family/friends for help and look into home care services periodically.
  • Join an in-person or online caregiver support group to share experiences.
  • Make time for relaxing activities you enjoy like hobbies, socializing or exercise.
  • Eat nutritious meals and stay hydrated to maintain your health and energy levels.
  • Seek counseling or support groups if feeling overwhelmed, depressed or stressed.
  • Learn stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
  • Discuss concerns openly with the patient’s doctor and ask for additional resources.
  • Take time off without feeling guilty.
  • Change the negative ways you view situations.
  • Set goals.

Taking good care of yourself through self-care, support and stress relief is vital for providing sustainable care over the long-term. If you’re overwhelmed don’t try to manage alone. Consider dementia home care services. Services like these will help you with your loved one and get you the respite you need to recharge. Home care professionals can assist with the activities of daily living, allowing you to spend quality time together without the added stress of 24 hour care responsibilities. This makes home care services an excellent option worth exploring if you begin to feel the demands of caregiving pulling you down over time. Your own health and well-being should be the top priority so you can continue supporting your loved one through all stages of their condition.

Author

  • Kimberly Miller

    Kimberly Miller, RN, is a proud Florida native with an unwavering commitment to elder care that spans an impressive 25 years. Her extensive journey through central Florida's hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospice companies has not only honed her understanding of disease processes but has also cultivated a profound expertise in navigating the intricate landscape of elder care. Kimberly's dedication to delivering the highest quality of care to patients and their families is evident in every facet of her career. Armed with certifications as an assisted living administrator, Kimberly's primary focus on customer service and her drive to address the holistic needs of individuals—mind, body, and soul—have led her to a resounding conclusion: home care is the future of personalized, high-quality care. Her conviction is rooted in the understanding that a combination of healthy nutrition, physical and mental exercise, and social engagement is directly linked to improved physical and mental well-being. The recent global pandemic has served as a poignant reminder of the limitations of institutional care, further strengthening Kimberly's resolve. Motivated by a profound desire to make a meaningful difference, she has taken the helm at Prestige Home Care. Here, Kimberly is dedicated to providing a level of care that goes beyond industry standards—a level of care she would wholeheartedly entrust to her own family.

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