Looking after someone with dementia
When a family member or loved one begins to suffer from dementia and starts to find everyday tasks more difficult, it can be incredible taxing and stressful for the people who become their carers. Not knowing the best way to support their beloved relative makes the carer feel afraid and perhaps even inadequate, feelings which are only compounded by the sufferer’s own anxiety and fear over their condition.
Creating a Structure
One of the biggest steps people find useful in managing dementia and caring for its sufferers is to create a routine. This needs to be based around normal life, in a relaxed environment, using steps with which both carer and patient are happy. Using positive reinforcement rather than criticism is also very important ? the dementia sufferer’s mind is a little fragile, so negative comments can hit much harder than anticipated. Keeping them involved in planning the routine is also helpful, allowing them to retain a certain amount of independence at this difficult time. Dementia doesn’t always mean that sufferers are unable to help with the shopping, cleaning or gardening ? it’s just that they might need more support and supervision to do so. Being involved in these kinds of tasks also helps provide a bench mark by which the progression of the illness can be monitored. When these jobs start to become more difficult, additional support can be provided.
Prolonging Normal Habits
In the earliest stages of dementia, memory aids in the home can help to trigger the sufferer’s mind to remember things. ‘Dementia and Alzheimer’s Memory Care Ideas’ can include putting pictures on cupboard doors which show where crockery or food items are kept, or on the bathroom door so that it can easily be identified. It is important to try to sustain independence where possible, so that the sufferer’s self-esteem can be protected. Having visitors, engaging in their usual hobbies such as board games or listening to music can also help to provide familiar normality. Just be aware that some patients might find visits overwhelming, especially if there are too many guests at the same time.
Around mealtimes, people suffering from dementia can often become confused or uncertain. This can manifest itself as not recognising food items, not being able to remember what they like or refusing to eat. Involving the person in preparing meals can help with this. Likewise, if the person cannot feed themselves, it is better to put the spoon in their hand and guide it to their mouth than to take over completely, as they are able to stay involved in the process.
Caring for Carers
Looking after someone with dementia is difficult for the carer too. Carers need to ensure that they also look after their own well-being when caring for someone else. It is essential that carers have their own support, people they can share their concerns with or discuss practical solutions with. Many carers rely on family or friends, but there are often local support groups or charities in the area where ideas can be shared. Often, carers find that they are in need of a break but don’t know how to achieve this. At home, respite care can usually be arranged which will continue to look after the dementia sufferer. Alternatively, the patient can spend a week’s holiday in a residential respite centre. Remember to check in advance that the home is capable of handling the care of a dementia patient, but most will be able to meet your loved one’s needs.