Caregiving may be taxing on individuals already and if caring for a loved one with dementia, stress may be considerably heightened. But effective dementia care is best achieved when the disease is better understood, as it may require additional considerations and adaptations. But with this dementia caregiving guide, you can gain a better understanding and peace of mind!
How to Deal with Dementia
In a nutshell, dementia is a group of conditions that impairs at least two brain functions, including memory loss and judgment. A compromised ability to think rationally can transcend to a series of events, including wandering, agitation, sleeplessness and sundowning, and poor hygiene practices. While these situations may seem overwhelming as a caregiver, they are also confusing and angering to the senior trying to deal with them. All-in-all, dealing with dementia is variable based on its progression and severity. While it cannot be cured, minimizing and managing the symptoms can prevail to lessened stress while contributing to an enhanced quality of life. The following considerations and recommendations are continually encouraged for dementia caregiving:
Effective communication may be the most meaningful component of effective dementia care. Communicate as clearly and concisely as possible, highlighting the key messages and take away points. This may be best achieved by limiting external noise, including muting the television when speaking or shutting a shared door to a loud area. As well as verbal communication, it is also important to recognize the way your demeanor is communicating. Try maintaining a tactful body posture and keep a positive attitude, as your loved one may be able to pick up on frustrations and react to them. Additionally, listen open-mindedly and attentively when others are trying to communicate with you and respond in a respectful, loving manner.
Wandering is commonly witnessed in people with dementia, often worsening as the stages progress. The reasoning and pinpointed trigger may be difficult to identify but largely stems from boredom, side effects of medications, and looking for something or someone. To reduce the act of wandering, keep seniors busy throughout the day and place “do not enter” signs around the house to (hopefully) halt their aimless walking. But if wandering becomes too excessive, consider adding childproof locks, installing a home security system, or having your loved one wear a GPS tracker or identification bracelet.
Individuals with dementia may become agitated and reasonably so. Agitation may further stimulate verbal and physical aggression behaviors, especially as their autonomy and self-control starts to become compromised primarily based on memory loss. Reduce agitation severity by creating a relaxing environment, free of clutter and noise. Most importantly, try to not intensely act to their agitation, but rather comfort them and try to offer distractions.
Sundowning and Sleeplessness
Dementia patients may also be diagnosed with Sundowner’s Syndrome, a cluster of neurological changes associated with increased confusion and restlessness primarily in the late afternoon or early evening hours when the sun goes down. Seniors who “sundown” most often have disrupted sleep-wake cycles and may start to feel more exhausted and even depressed. Although little is known about Sundowner’s Syndrome, caregivers are encouraged to promote a more structured sleep schedule, diminish sleep disturbances, and offer a relaxed environment come nightfall for all seniors.
Malnutrition is a significant concern among the senior population, and an even greater worry in seniors with dementia. The condition can disrupt normal eating patterns and disturb their desire to eat altogether. Similarly to nurturing normal sleep routines, offer more structured eating patterns. Offer easy-to-eat foods, assist in feeding, and purchase assistive utensils if or as you see fit. And while offering adequate nutrition is important, the primary focus is based on not what they are eating, but that they are. So if they decide ice cream sounds best for lunch, by all means, offer them not only one bowl, but two!
The loss of bladder control tends to progress as dementia does. Additionally, memory loss may cause individuals to forget where the bathroom is located. Managing incontinence is primarily based on establishing a bathroom routine, monitoring fluid intake, and offering reminders and assistance as recognized.
People living with dementia may have trouble remembering good hygiene practices, including bathing, brushing teeth, and toileting. As a caregiver, assist and intervene on where you may see needed. For example, try to assist in their independence by setting out clothing in the bed but stepping into help if you start to notice they are having difficulty dressing themselves.
Caregivers Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors. Family Caregiver Alliance.