A Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Someone with Dementia

We all know someone who is suffering from some form of dementia. That person could be our neighbor, a relative, or even our own parents. According to World Health Organization, about fifty million people worldwide are living with dementia and a new case of dementia is diagnosed every three seconds.

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Sometimes people dismiss the early signs of dementia. Being a family member, it’s important to notice things such as misplacing items, confusion with time or place, and personality changes, and enable your loved ones to seek help. Home screening tests and consequently a discussion with a doctor can help with the diagnosis.

Caring for a family member or a loved one with dementia can be a daunting task. People living with dementia are prone to excessive mood swings, can experience a huge personality shift and lose sense of time and space. Though all individuals are different, we have put together a simple dementia guide to help you navigate through the challenging situations.

Get Organized and Plan Ahead

Losing track of small things and not being able to remember details can be extremely frustrating for people living with dementia. Hence, it is useful for caregivers to create daily routines, simplify tasks and organize the living space. It is advisable to involve the individual in planning the daily tasks to boost their self-esteem and help them remember how to do things.

Senior care for dementia becomes easier once a routine is established. A routine makes the day more predictable and helps individual remember what to do next. You can start with breakfast accompanied by an activity such as reading the newspaper and then line-up other activities such as bathing, lunch, nap, watching television, and then dinner.

Organizing the living space, makes daily tasks easier for your loved one. Small changes such as keeping daily use items like the mobile phone, keys, and television remote at clearly visible obvious places, labelling kitchen and bathroom cupboards to remind them of what’s inside and putting post-it notes with important numbers near the telephone can help eliminate confusion.

Additionally, decluttering is also good. You can remove the unnecessary items from dressers, side tables, and closets to help these individuals focus. It’s also useful to remove extra clothing items from wardrobes to make it easier for them to choose.

Senior care for dementia may take a toll on the caregiver if done alone. Hence, in addition to working with medical professionals, it’s vital to have a support system that could consist of friends, family and even your neighbors. This network will not only help you manage day-to-day activities but also help your loved ones in maintaining social connections.

Create a Safe and Secure Environment

As dementia progresses, so do the number of safety hazards. To ensure that these individuals remain out of the harm’s way it is crucial to take steps to minimize any potential injuries, risk of wandering, and being locked out of the house.

Some minor changes around the house can help reduce the risk of injuries that can be sustained by falling, tripping, and burning. Some of the things you can do are ensuring that the living space is well-lit, there is no unstable furniture, rugs are secured in place, and the water heater temperature is kept low.

One of the biggest fear people living with dementia have is losing their freedom. For instance, they realize that they may not be permitted to drive because it can not only endanger their life but also harm others. In such a situation it’s important to hear them out, listen to their concerns and if necessary involve a doctor to ensure that they don’t react in an adverse manner.

People living with dementia, particularly when they’re suffering from Alzheimer’s, are quite likely to wander. According to the National Institute on Aging (US), experts suggest that as many as 5.5 million Americans, age 65 and older, may have Alzheimer’s. To ensure that these individuals remain safe, they can be given wearable accessories which can track their movements.

Focus On Their Personal Care

Due to the progressive deterioration in cognitive function, it becomes harder for these individuals to take care of their nutrition, personal hygiene and sleep. Lack of focus on these basic activities can cause them to develop other medical conditions, experience weight loss, and become irritable.

As surprising as it may sound, people with dementia sometimes forget to eat or drink. To ensure that they are eating properly, caregivers can pre-prepare meal schedules, sit down and eat with their loved ones, minimize distractions, prepare food that’s easy to chew and swallow, and keep healthy finger foods and snacks at home.

Just like forgetting to eat and drink, your loved ones may also find it difficult to maintain personal hygiene. This includes activities such as brushing teeth, bathing, and using the toilet. One of the most difficult tasks perhaps is taking a bath. When helping your loved one with bathing, be considerate and patient as taking help may be embarrassing for them.

It’s always good to stick to their old bathing routine as well as use products they are familiar with. In addition to this, it’s good to check if they are comfortable with the temperature of the water. Most importantly, they should never be left unattended as tub and wet surfaces are a potential safety hazard.

Senior care for dementia can be difficult both physically and emotionally, so it’s okay if you feel exhausted. While your loved ones may not be in the position to acknowledge what you’re doing, it’s important to know that you’re doing what you can. Alongside taking care of your loved one, take time out for yourself.

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As we wrap up the dementia guide, here are a few tips to ensure that you’re giving yourself the time you need. Self-care will not only help you take care of your loved one in a better way but also help you in staying positive. It’s a long journey but remember – you’ve got this.

Author: Erum Ansari is a public relations professional who specializes in technology comms. She is an avid reader, a travel enthusiast, and a self-proclaimed story-teller. Before joining the content team at Your Doctors Online, Erum was the PR manager at Hill & Knowlton Strategies and was handling communications and content strategy for a diverse portfolio of brands. She is also a new mom who is finding her way around motherhood.