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Coping With Dementia: Finding Support as a Caregiver or Family Member

by Shannon, December 11, 2018

Dementia is a condition that is difficult for both the patient and family members to cope with on a daily basis. As a result, it’s crucial to understand not only how the disease works and how you can help everyone involved cope.

More than 50 million people are diagnosed with dementia worldwide with nearly 10 million new cases each year, according to the World Health Organization.

If you or someone you love is trying to navigate the disease with grace, consider these tips to help you along the way.

Navigating the Challenges

Many people diagnosed with dementia experience complicated symptoms that may include increased frustration, anger or violence, as well as depression. Despite these challenges, you can help as a family member or caregiver by doing the following:

  • Develop Routines and Schedules: It is important to set daily routines for individuals with dementia to help minimize confusion. Try to maintain some consistency with sleep schedules, eating and activities so you and your loved one can navigate the day more easily.
  • Provide as Much Independence as Possible: Often times, with aging adults, the loss of independence can make them feel more crippled than ever. The same applies to people with dementia. If you are tempted to do everything for someone with dementia, you may be met with resistance. Try and allow your loved one the opportunity to keep his or her independence as much as possible, unless a safety risk is present.
  • Be Realistic: Understand that while it is perfectly normal to grieve the loss of who your family member was at one time, you can’t expect him or her to revert back to who he or she once was. Know that dementia is responsible for changes in personality and moods – not you. If you set unrealistic expectations such as hoping the individual will remember key elements of the past or the present, you will experience frustration and even more grief.
  • Focus on the Now: There are several stages of dementia. In fact, approximately seven stages exist, according to Dementia Care Central. Therefore, don’t view a diagnosis as a death sentence. You could enjoy more than 20 years with a loved one coping with the disease. Focus on how you can maximize your time together. Have fun, take trips to local attractions and remember that he or she is more than the disease.
  • Understand the Benefit of Good Nutrition and Exercise: Patients with dementia can benefit from healthy lifestyle changes, regardless of the stage of the disease. In fact, studies have linked the disease to poor nutrition and lifestyle choices, according to the Australian Journal of Dementia Care. Reduce intake of refined sugars and increase vegetables to help manage behavioral issues, such as outbursts and agitation. Exercise can also boost the body and mind. As you create a daily routine, incorporate time for walks or even an exercise class at a community center to maximize your and your loved one’s ability to cope with dementia.

 Focusing on Communication 

One of the most common struggles caregivers and families struggle with when caring for a patient with dementia is communication. As the brain disorder progresses, it is more difficult for people with dementia to remember things, communicate with others and even think clearly, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. 

Follow these tips to enhance your ability to communicate with a family member diagnosed with dementia:

  • Use Simple Words and Sentences: When communicating with a dementia patient, refrain from raising your voice. Instead, speak slowly and in a comforting tone. If he or she doesn’t understand what you are trying to communicate, try repeating the message or rephrasing the message.
  • Minimize Distractions: Background noises stemming from a radio or TV can further confuse a dementia patient when he or she is trying to communicate. When having conversations, make sure the environment is quiet and use nonverbal cues to get the attention of your loved one. Many times, you may have to identify yourself so he or she feels comfortable talking with you.
  • Break Down the Message: When communicating, avoid spouting off several steps or directions at once. Instead, break down the message and focus on one task at a time. For example, if your loved one is helping you set the table, focus on setting out the plates first versus trying to set out napkins, plates and silverware at the same time. Use a reassuring tone as you offer guidance and “show” how to do the task with visual cues, too.
  • Laugh Together: People diagnosed with dementia are often able to retain their social skills. Therefore, don’t underestimate the power of humor. Laugh with each other on a regular basis to keep the mood positive during communication. While coping with the disease is often disheartening, you can still bring joy to his or her life by reviving his or her sense of humor.

Finding the Support You Need

Support for people with dementia, as well as their caregivers and family, is essential. Even if you are educated about the disease, make all necessary arrangements to provide comfort and focus on enhancing communication, the reality is that all involved need emotional support.

Start by seeking out local resources available, such as nearby support groups hosted by hospital personnel and counseling centers. National organizations can also provide you with tips, advice, and emotional support.

Utilize these resources to help cope with the changes and learn more about how dementia affects your loved one:

The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center: This service of the National Institute on Aging offers publications on long-term care, research, treatment options, patient care and caregiver needs.

Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program: This nationwide program allows families to register dementia patients in a confidential computer database, in the event he or she wanders away.

Alzheimer’s Association Support Groups: Connect with other patients, family members and caregivers who are facing the same struggles as you. The Alzheimer’s Association features both online support groups and information about local meet-ups.

In addition, lean on caregivers, such as the qualified staff from Care Indeed, to help with daily living. Life with any type of dementia is challenging and learning how to accept the challenge is the first step in living life. While you may struggle with grief and loss when coping with the symptoms as a patient, caregiver or family member, the support you need is only a click away.

Care Indeed is committed to providing you the support and in-home caregivers who understand your challenges and daily struggles at work and home. Learn more about how to get the support you need while living with Dementia.Reach out for more information