Dementia is a serious disease that poses a tremendous challenge for the caregiver. Caring for someone diagnosed with a brain disorder, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or dementia can be daunting. As you will not only be required to ensure your loved one or client is comfortable, but you will also need to have a plan to prevent wandering, miscommunication, possible aggression, and ensure that the nutritional and hydration needs are met. In fact, Jane Byrne at FirstCare.ie says that, “while broadly speaking dementia patients may present similarly, all dementia patients will have varying symptoms because the affected parts of the brain vary from one person to another.”
Therefore, it is important to lean on proven strategies as you as you care for your loved one or client with dementia. The following are four strategies that you may find helpful:
Maintain Proper Nutrition
Your loved one or client with dementia may literally forget to eat or drink. This means that monitoring your loved one or client’s nutritional status should take precedence. It is prudent to establish a daily routine that allows you to sit together while you eat. Soft foods that are rich in calories should be served. Regarding drinks, you should try to provide a straw so that your loved one or client is able to drink with ease. Be sure to serve a well-rounded nutritious meal as fatty-foods can negatively impact your loved one’s health and well-being.
Develop a Plan to Prevent Issues with Wandering
Wandering is common among individuals suffering from dementia. While it is impossible to determine what may trigger your loved one or client to wander it is a major safety issue that must be addressed. It is important that you the caregiver, ensure that your loved one or client always wears an identification bracelet, so that others can help identify him /her should wandering occur. You might also consider including your phone number(s) on the bracelet so that in instances where your loved one or client gets lost, you can easily be contacted. Wandering can be scary for both you and your loved one or client. A solid plan is the key to averting danger associated with wandering!
You can Diffuse Agitation by Staying Calm
Your loved one or client with dementia may easily become agitated, especially when routines are disrupted or when he or she is scared. It is important that you remain calm, should your loved one or client appear distressed. Being gentle and responding in a calm manner will serve to ease feelings of agitation. When possible try to take a step back to determine the root cause of the behavior. Is your loved one cold, uncomfortable, scared, angry, tired, or hungry? Once you determine the root cause of the behavior calmly address the issue. Another important consideration is to stick to a routine and try to maintain the living space so that it is familiar. Routines and familiar spaces help to ease agitation. Your loved one or client may also benefit from soft music or a brisk walk in a safe place, as both strategies help release pent up tension. You may also choose to simply distract your loved one or client with a favorite item that he or she finds comforting. Over time you will likely develop best practices that work to ease your loved one or client’s distress. Be sure to share these practices with family members or professional care providers.
Increased Daytime activities to reduce sleeplessness and restlessness
Sleeplessness and restlessness are common nighttime disrupters of sleep among individuals with dementia. Increasing your loved one or client’s activities during the day and slowly reducing them as bedtime approaches is the best way to improve sleep during the night. In fact, altering the schedule for more daytime activity helps to train your loved one or client’s mind so that he or she becomes accustomed to nighttime sleep. Eliminating some stimulants such as the caffeine and sugar may also improve your loved one or client’s sleep. In some cases, it may be prudent to seek guidance from a doctor to resolve issues of sleeplessness or restlessness.
It’s important to note that caring your loved one or client with dementia can be extremely challenging. In fact, your loved one or client will likely need specialized care over a long period of time. Every now and then you may feel distressed, in those instances patience and compassion will come in handy. It is equally important that you learn all you can about dementia and that you apply your knowledge so that you can effectively care for your loved one or client. Also, do not forget to take care of yourself!
Holly Clark, the community manager for FirstCare.ie who provide a range of high-quality care services. Holly is passionate about improving the quality of care that elderly people receive around the world.