When a Relative Has Dementia – Many families living with a dementia patient can find some peace and a little stability. It takes a clear understanding of what dementia is and how it can be managed. Here’s some practical advice:
- Being reasonable and logical won’t work. Your family member with dementia doesn’t have a boss in his or her brain any longer and can’t respond to your rational arguments. Straightforward, simple sentences about what is going to happen are best.
- People with dementia don’t need to be grounded in reality. When someone has memory loss, he or she often forgets things such as his or her mother is deceased. When we remind the person of this, we bring back the pain of that loss. Redirecting and asking your family member about the person he or she asked for is a better way to calm him or her.
- You can’t be a perfect caregiver. Learn to forgive your loved one, as well as yourself. Doing so is essential in the caregiving journey.
- Doctors often need your input. Telling the physician what you see at home is important.
- Balance may shift from day to day. Do you let the dementia patient do a task for himself or herself? If you do it for him or her, the patient will lose the ability to be independent in that skill. It’s a constant juggle to find balance.
Dementia is a symptom of another, more complex disorder. There is always something else that leads to dementia. These conditions include:
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Narrowing blood vessels — vascular dementia.
- Head injuries.
- Multiple strokes.
- Years of alcoholism.
- Brain tumors.
- Brain infection.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Thyroid disease.
- Kidney disease.
Here is how you can help a loved one with dementia:
- Try to provide a safe environment and keep a daily routine. Coping with new demands will be challenging.
- Consider adult day care centers. They can provide a consistent environment for your loved one and a chance for socializing.
- Acknowledge feelings. If your loved one becomes sad, angry or upset, don’t ignore it. Let him or her know that you understand. You might say, “I see that you’re frustrated. Let’s go for a walk.” This validates the person’s feelings and might help him or her calm down.
One of the most daunting aspects of the disorder is agitation — violent and disturbing behavior that’s uncharacteristic of your family member.
Agitation may be caused by:
- Pain and discomfort.
- Changes in environment or routine.
- Lack of sleep.
- Hunger or thirst.
- Being too cool or too warm.
- Impending medical procedures.
- Poor communication.
- Routine disruptions.
- Poor lighting.
Anything that takes a dementia patient out of his or her comfort zone can cause an explosive episode. Unfortunately, you, as the caregiver, may feel it’s something you did, but careful consideration of how to manage the loved one’s routine, medical requirements and social needs can curb these problems.
The best thing you can do is to learn about the disease and what you can expect as the dementia progresses. You and other family members can try to plan for the future with your loved one if he or she can still participate in the discussions.
You are not alone — find support groups, organizations and services that can help you. Your loved one will have good days and bad days. Develop strategies for coping with the harder times.
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