Guest post by Ben Lamm from www.senior-planning.com
Although challenging, being able to care for your loved one with dementia can also be very rewarding. Understanding how to take care of yourself, while also properly coping with some of the problem behaviors that result from dementia, can help lessen your stress.
Tip #1: Look Out for Yourself
Taking care of yourself is vital if you want to be an effective caregiver. Eat well and make time for exercise, and never skip your regular medical appointments.
Make some time for yourself, either by bringing in friends and family to give you a day off, or taking advantage of professional respite care services. It’s important that you take regular breaks from your caregiving duties, either to meet with friends or spend time alone.
It is equally important to recognize when the situation requires that our parent may need to be admitted to a skilled nursing facility. Covering the exorbitant cost of long-term care is a subject in and of itself, suffice it to say that often it is advisable that the family reach out to a Medicaid planning company for more info.
Tip #2: Communicate Effectively
Communication can be frustrating with your loved one, especially as their tenuous hold on current realities begins to fail. Effective communicate requires a few key skills:
- Keep your tone positive and friendly, and provide positive interaction as you speak. A smile and a reassuring touch go a long way
- Limit distractions, such as the TV, and speak clearly using simple words and sentences.
- Keep your questions simple and easy to answer. Ask, “Do you want fried or scrambled eggs?” instead of, “How do you want your eggs?”
- Change the subject or the scenery if your loved one gets agitated or upset. Going for a walk or just moving into a different room can help. Throughout it all, show affection and positive reassurance.
Tip #3: Reduce Common Agitators
Personality changes, including anger, agitation, and lashing out, are common with dementia. Stress, frustration, and a skewed sense of reality are the causes.
Keeping a friendly, loving and reassuring tone during all interactions can reduce agitation. It’s also vital to maintain a calm atmosphere. Decorating in soothing colors and minimizing bright lights and loud noises can help. Opt for calming music and quiet pursuits.
Exercise is another way to soothe stress. Whether it’s short walks or light exercise in the home, foster a habit for activity within their abilities.
Tip #4: Manage Sleepless Nights
Dementia can disrupt the normal sleep cycle. This normal disorientation that occurs at night is commonly referred to as sundowning, and it often passes by morning.
Increased daytime activity paired with a regular bedtime helps minimize sleeplessness. Keep the bedroom comfortable and provide a night light and soothing music to help lull your loved one to sleep. Waking in the night to visit the restroom can result in an inability to fall back to sleep, so you may need to use a portable toilet by the bed.
Tip #5: Minimize Wandering Issues
Some wandering is normal with dementia. As long as it’s within the safe areas of the house, there’s no need for concern. If they tend to wander beyond the house, you must put a stop to it. Restlessness and disorientation are the main causes of wandering.
Reduce restlessness by making sure your loved one is well-rested and eating well. Redirect pacing into a more organized walk together or a more physically active activity. Keep the home quiet during restless periods and engage with them to eliminate boredom. Further, keep an ID bracelet on them at all times in case they do wander off.
Tip #6: Cope Effectively With Hallucinations
As the senses and memory fail, hallucinations and paranoia become more common. Never try to argue with or dismiss their hallucinations. Instead, respond positively and reassuringly to emotions they are conveying through their hallucinations. Avoid violent movies or disturbing news programs, as these can cause further paranoia.
It is important to constantly remind ourselves, especially when the going gets rough, that the labor of love that we, along with 65 million other Americans, are providing to our elderly loved one, is indeed heroic and deserves endless recognition and admiration.