Caring for a Loved One With Dementia
Once you find out that someone close to you has been diagnosed with dementia, you may feel your whole life has changed. Some questions are starting to form in your mind. How do you take care of your loved one? What about your job? What if you can't handle it? Where are they going to live? Slow down and take some time to process the information. Look at each question and ask the doctor if you don't know what to do. If you're looking for answers, there are steps you can take to ensure your loved one is being cared for.
Take your loved one out for walks multiple times a day. While the two of you are on your walks, point out things in the area. Don't forget to mention what they are to your loved ones and have them repeat it back to you. People with dementia often forget things. A lot of times they don't know where they are. When you say the words, it will also help them with their speech. If they are at the beginning stages of dementia, saying things may prevent a speech delay.
2. One Nap a Day
Walking will also prevent your loved one from napping all day. One nap a day will be good enough for them. If they are sleeping all day, they will be awake all night. Ensure they are on a schedule, so their days and nights are not getting mixed up. If they are up all night, you won't get any sleep either because you'll have to watch them all night.
3. Help Them Focus
If your routine involves watching television with dinner, you'll need to change that. Turn the TV off and have conversations with them. Dementia patients will have trouble focusing if they are paying more attention to what's on TV. Talk to them about anything to keep their attention on you. Ask them if they remember a memory from when you were a kid. If you have children, have them tell their grandparents a story. It could be about anything, such as what they did at school that day, or an activity you planned together.
4. Take Them to Appointments
People with dementia can't drive because they will forget where they are or where they're going. You will have to take them where they need to go, including their doctor's appointments. The doctors will subscribe medication for your loved one to take at home. Make sure to familiarize yourself with their medication schedule because you have to remind them to take their pills and help them. It's also good to monitor them after they're on their medication for a while. Make sure to keep a journal of any changes and report those to their doctor.
5. Help with Hygiene
When they take a bath or shower, make sure it's at the same time every day. Most dementia patients will be afraid to ask for help because they're uncomfortable undressing in front of you. You can purchase a handle to put in your shower to make it easy for them to get in and get out by themselves. Their privacy will be respected, and you can be outside the door so you can hear them yell for help. You can also remind them to go to the bathroom and brush their teeth. Never tell them how often they should perform a self-care routine. That can end in an argument. Take the time to encourage them to take a bath or shower, brush their teeth, and go to the bathroom.
6. Safety is Important
You should always make sure the doors are always locked. Check your smoke detectors to make sure they are working. Keep everything that has to do with fire away from them. Always keep everything out of their path, so they don't fall. If you have stairs, ensure that you are with them at all times to help them up and down the stairs. You could also create a safe living environment for them downstairs, so they don't have an excuse to go to your second floor. They will still try to go up the stairs because people with dementia do a lot of wandering without having a plan for where they're going.
Caring for your family member with dementia may sound like a lot, but it is a full-time job. Most people commit to quitting their job and taking care of their loved ones in their homes while other people decide to move them into a care facility. That way some people can look after them all day and all night. It's also good to have patience when caring for your loved one. Don't let your frustrations get the best of you. Always remember that their doctor is there for you for support and if you have any questions.
Mayo Clinic staff (2021). Alzheimer's and dementia care: Tips for daily tasks. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/alzheimers-caregiver/art-20047577.
Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology (2021). Dementia - Home care: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007428.htm
Department of Health (2014). Dementia - hygiene. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/dementia-hygiene.
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