1. Stay Calm. It can be difficult to see your loved one upset or emotionally worked-up and not know how to help. In their frustration they may even say things that hurt your feelings or have other irrational outbursts. And because these problems can change from day-to-day, you may never be sure what’s next.
But, in these difficult moments, it can help to pause, take a deep breath and become mindful. This will help you feel more calm and grounded and give you the clarity you need to manage the moment and help ease the patient’s distress.
2. Educate Yourself. The more you know about how Alzheimer’s and dementia affect the brain and the body, the better able you will be to anticipate and manage any symptoms that emerge. For example, Alzheimer’s can change vision and balance, with that in mind you can make changes in the household by adding lighting or removing area rugs and clutter to minimize the risk of falling and improving comfort and security.
3. Keep a routine. Creating and maintaining a routine can help ease anxiety and agitation for those living with dementia. Plan the day, including when you will do the household chores, serve meals, and help with personal care. Also, leaving time for music or other creative connection and some quiet time, when nothing is planned.
4. Reminisce Your Loved One. One of the biggest challenges families face is finding ways to connect with their loved ones. Reminiscing can be a way to do it. Seniors with dementia are often able to recount memories from their past and it can soothe them to share stories of their earlier years. Turning on some of their favorite music can also be a way to help them calm and connect and remember the past.
5. Promote Participation. Individuals like to feel as though they are in control of their own lives, and seniors living with dementia are no different. Look for ways to involve the older adult you are caring for and encourage and allow them to do the things they still can. Although progress on many issues may seem frustratingly slow, always remember the process matters more than outcome.
And don’t forget to remain flexible. You may need to adapt your care approach to deal with fluctuating symptoms. For example, some days they may be able to button their shirt, other days they may need help with that, but still be able to brush their teeth.
Dr. Peter Rabins, co-author of the 36-hour Day, A Guide to Caring for Those with Dementia and Memory Loss, suggests caregivers actually demonstrate the task they want completed, so that the senior has a visual example of what needs to be done.
Take it day by day, one step at a time.
If your elderly loved one is unable to complete the task and becomes increasingly frustrated, step in and do what he can’t, Rabins said.
And be willing to step into their reality. It’s not uncommon for the senior with dementia-related illness to be rooted in another time and place. If he thinks he needs to go to work, treat that as though it were real, because it feels very real to the senior.
Rather than arguing or explaining or reminding the senior that he no longer works, offer to take him to work right after breakfast, or ask about the job he did and allow him to reminisce. Be open and flexible to the reality the senior is experiencing.
Dr. Rabins has many informational videos and valuable resources that are available online.
6. Connect with others. Classes, support groups, and other family members or peers who are dealing with the same cognitive decline can be a great source of support and information that can help improve care and comfort. They can also offer amazing tips you can use to help manage the everyday routine while caring for your loved one. Nevertheless, connecting with others who know and sympathize what you are going through can help ease the depression, and stress that family caregivers sometimes experience.
Don’t forget to build some time for self care. In order for you to be able to care for your loved one for as long as they need, you need to do what it takes to remain strong, healthy and comfortable. Set aside some personal time each week to rest, or visit with friends, exercise, go outdoors, or take on another adventure you enjoy.
More information and videos are available from the Alzheimer’s Association.
Quality Family Care of South Florida can find the perfect match for your in-home care-giving needs.
Our caregivers have extensive training in the care of people with dementia and will maintain the routine you’ve established by assisting with the activities of daily living, hygiene care, and household chores. But they go beyond, by also engaging and connecting with older adults in a way that supports cognitive health.
Ready for support you can trust? Call 877-513-7156 to learn more about how a Quality Family Care of South Florida can help support your family’s care-giving concerns with our trained and experienced referral experts.