As we mentioned in our blog What is Dementia? there are 47.5 million people worldwide currently living with dementia. As the population ages, we will all deal with dementia in some way, as a child of a parent diagnosed, as a friend, loved one, or spouse. As a caregiver of someone with Dementia, the three main areas in which to prepare yourself are patience, flexibility, and communication.
As a caregiver, you can expect that someone with dementia will have problems thinking and remembering what seem like normal tasks or behaviors. This can cause sincere frustration for your aging loved one. This is where patience becomes extremely important. To be patient and help your loved one, use the suggested tips below:
- Allow for extra time for regular activities: you need to anticipate that everything will take a little bit longer than usual. Plan your day to include a few extra minutes for each task.
- Create a routine: put as much of a routine schedule in place as possible. This will help make the day-to-day less confusing for your loved one.
- Offer choices and options: if you are able, provide different options for the day-to-day activities like: what to wear, what to eat, or where to go walking. Giving two (maximum three) options will give your loved one some autonomy in decision-making while still helping make things simple.
- Keep the instructions simple: give clear, step-by-step instructions when needed. Take your time in order to avoid confusion or frustration.
Dementia is a progressive disease, so you can expect the symptoms and ability to remember or think clearly to decline over time. Be flexible each day, as it may be very different than the day before or the day after. It’s important not to become too comfortable. Make sure you keep your eye on your loved one and to put greater supervision in place as the disease progresses. The disease can progress in three stages:
- Mild Dementia – some difficulty remembering words, retaining new information, and some behavioral changes.
- Moderate Dementia – progressive changes in behavior, cognition, judgment, and general ability to do daily tasks.
- Severe Dementia – extensive memory loss, extreme mobility impairment, and other serious needs that require constant care.
You also need to be comfortable asking for help and trying different methods to help care for your loved one.
Being patient and flexible is critical when communicating with someone affected by dementia. Some tips on how to communicate are:
- Let the person finish speaking, don’t interrupt.
- Set a positive tone for the conversation and let them communicate at their own pace.
- Don’t criticize or correct.
- Remain calm and don’t let your emotions take control.
- Be respectful and talk to them as an adult, but be clear and mindful of your pace.
Caring for a loved one with dementia is a challenging job. You need to be aware of how dementia will affect you as the caregiver. Keep in mind how much patience, flexibility and clear communication will be required daily. Don’t forget to give yourself a break and take time for yourself.