As a caregiver you strive to empower and assist a wide range of individuals. Whether you are caring for a loved one or a client, it is important to have a clear understanding of their medical conditions and how to provide appropriate care. It is particularly challenging to meet the physical, emotional, and social needs of a loved one or client with dementia. The following are six tips that you may find helpful as you care for a loved one or client with dementia:
Formalize the Decision-Making Process!
Dementia tends to affect the decision-making process. As such, it is vital to prepare for the future by determining how important decisions about healthcare preferences and financial decisions will be made. Your loved one or client should decide who will be making medical and financial decisions and then gain power of attorney for that person. If you are a professional caregiver and they are your client, then your focus should be on making sure you know who the primary decision-maker is, how much autonomy you have, and when you should seek their approval.
Different Types of Dementia
Not all cases of dementia are the same. In fact, the term is an umbrella that rests over a few different conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy Bodies, and frontotemporal dementia, each of which follow a different course, show up in different ways, and have different features associated with them. As such, the approaches to caring for a loved one or client with dementia are varied. Early identification and differentiation of dementia can help you choose the more appropriate course of action when it comes to providing care and helping with treatment. Knowing the type of dementia your loved one or client has, informs the type of care you provide.
The Availability of Help and Support
You may be the primary person supporting your loved one or client as challenges arise, however you should not provide care alone. Rather, it is important to establish a dementia management team and a support structure for both you and your loved one or client. This can include finding a support group where you can share your experience with others. You might also consider talking to the doctor about pairing with an occupational therapist who can provide ideas and information on how to improve your client or loved one’s wellbeing, safety, and quality of life.
It is a mistake to think that you need to speak to a person with dementia as if you were speaking to a small child. Although your loved one or client’s ability to engage may be more limited than it was in the past, he or she is still capable of processing information and answering questions. However, there are some communication tips for dementia patients that you should consider. For instance, setting a positive mood when interacting with your loved one or client is crucial, as is being able to get his or her attention when needed. Keeping statements and questions relatively simple and easy-to-understand is also recommended.
Keep the Environment Safe
One of the changes that individuals with a diagnosis of dementia frequently experience is a change in how they see their environment. If your loved one or client who has dementia is living in their own home, then you should look at the ways that you might be able to adapt it and make it more friendly to cater to their needs. Creating a safe environment can include making any changes that minimize confusion as best as possible, such as improving the lighting in the home to reduce shadows and glare and labeling doors, and other points of interaction to help them to better navigate. Some patterns have been known to disorient or confuse your loved one or client with dementia as well, so it is important to do your research.
How to Handle Troubling Behavior
One of the biggest challenges that any caregiver caring for a loved one or client with dementia is facing is uncooperative behavior. However, it is important to be as patient as possible and to understand the nature of these behaviors. The first thing to determine is the underlying reason for the behavior. For example, is your loved one or client in pain or is he or she having a reaction to a medication? Troubling behavior tends to have a trigger and, if it is not medical, it may be environmental. Figuring out the reason can help you think creatively about the solution to ease the situation.
Accept What you Can and Cannot Change
You cannot change a person through care alone, and sometimes it may feel like the care you are providing is not having much of an effect. However, it is important to take note of the battles that you are winning, rather than focusing on the tough days or the struggles you are not able to fully solve. Try to take the perspective of being in the moment, do not let past troubles affect how much energy you put into your care so that you can seize the victories along the way.
Of course, every person living with dementia is an individual, with their own wants, needs, and challenges. It is hopeful that the aforementioned tips are a starting place to address challenges that are specific to your loved one or client.