Caring for someone with dementia comes with its own unique challenges. When it comes to dementia care and dementia caregivers, having the right resources can make all the difference. From how to talk with someone with dementia to practical tips and tricks, here’s a caregiver’s guide to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Read on for an Alzheimer’s caregivers guide, including expert tips and evidence-based therapies.
How to Care for Someone With Dementia
Watching a loved one progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia can be difficult. Caregiving can be a uniquely challenging task, and often requires the caregiver to develop new skills. Caring for a person with dementia looks different for everyone, but essentially it comes down to finding routines and treatments that work for that person individually.
Consider Long Term Care
A family caregiver may be the preferred form of home care, but another form of long term care may be in your elderly friend’s best interests. While long term care can be a hard step to take emotionally, financially, and for other reasons, it may actually be the option that gives a senior the most independence and freedom. Alzheimer’s and dementia care facilities are generally specially equipped to deal with health conditions that affect memory and function.
How to Talk to Someone With Dementia
A person with dementia may have limited abilities when it comes to carrying on a conversation. Finding the best way to communicate with your loved one may require trial and error. The following tips can help you to successfully communicate with someone you care about.
It’s important to recognize that a symptom of dementia may be impaired communication skills. A loved one’s ability to communicate may not be what it used to be. Some practical tips to enhance communication for both parties include:
- Speak calmly and slowly
- Pay attention to tone
- Adjust the volume of your voice
Clue Into Nonverbal Cues
Nonverbal communication can help people with dementia connect during a conversation. Some tips for enhancing nonverbal communication include:
- Making eye contact
- Saying or repeating the person’s name
- Using gentle touch
- Paying attention to visual cues
- Reading body language
Don’t Give Up
While it may feel difficult to communicate with a person with dementia, putting effort and patience into the relationship is worth it. Even if responses with a family member with memory loss are limited, continuing to visit with your loved one can help provide connection and structure in both of your lives.
Alzheimer’s Caregivers Guide
In addition to communication, there are other key skills each caregiver needs. Here are some basic tips for making your caregiving journey one full of enjoyment, empathy, and education.
Share a Familiar Story or Experience
Knowing the person you are caring for is incredibly important. Sharing stories or experiences that are familiar to a person with dementia can bring them comfort. It can provide a sense of well-being called cognitive security, even if they can’t connect all the dots in their mind.
Adjust and Accommodate
In the late stages of dementia, your loved one may need to spend most of their time in a bed or chair to make them comfortable. Many activities can be participated in with small adjustments or modifications. For example, many museums offer virtual tours or free interactive exhibits that can be accessed online.
Daily activities like eating can also be made more dementia-friendly with special tools, mobility aids, and meals designed with Alzheimer’s in mind. For example, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may be prone to spilling food or have trouble placing food on a utensil. A plate guard called a spill guard is a simple solution to help catch crumbs while still encouraging the individual to eat independently.
Music can be a very effective component in care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. From calming nature sounds to familiar favorite tunes, music can be healing for both the caregiver and the person diagnosed with dementia.
Did you know singing has been linked to pain relief? Consider including music in your caregiving in the following form(s):
- Caregiver singing or music
- Nature sounds like waterfalls or ocean waves
- Therapeutic group singing
Join Support Groups
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be tricky. From dental problems to bedsores to incontinence, there are many issues you may feel like you can’t talk about with your family or friends. As a caregiver, it can be helpful to join a support group full of other people who can identify with what you are going through.
Take Some “Me Time”
Although it may seem counterintuitive, taking time for yourself actually benefits everyone involved. Caregiving can be a taxing endeavor, and taking some time away (a few hours, days, or even weeks) can be just what you need to recharge.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t always mean a tropical vacation. It can also look like:
- Asking for help
- Eating and sleeping well
- Taking breaks throughout the day
- Engaging with your own social circle
- Attending your own medical appointments
- Staying up to date on tasks that are important to you
Recapping Caring for Someone With Dementia
Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is no small task. However, there are simple shifts you can make to ensure your patient or loved one feels secure when it seems like all sense of normalcy is slipping away.
Remember, it’s often not about finding the “right” way right away, but rather about discovering what’s best through trial and error.
Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Caring for Yourself. National Institute On Aging. Published May 2017. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-caregiving-caring-yourself.
Caring for a Person With Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease. National Institute on Aging. Published May 2017. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/caring-late-stage-alzheimers-disease.
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