Essential tips for caregivers and families of dementia patients

Essential tips for caregivers and families of dementia patients

Dementia patients

Dementia is a term used to refer to several different symptoms, memory loss and lack of judgment being the major ones, which largely affect the life of an individual by interfering with their daily lives and the tendency to do work. Although it cannot be cured, it can be treated. Dementia is chronic and can last for years or may stay lifelong. Dementia takes place when the nerves of the brain are damaged or their connections get lost which mostly occurs with aging. The onset of dementia is mid the 60s or later. However, it may vary among individuals. Although the major symptom of dementia is memory loss it does not mean anyone who experiences memory loss has dementia.

These are some tips, which caregivers and their families could practice throughout the journey of nurturing and providing support to dementia patients.

Also Read: New Finding: Dementia Patients Retain Learning Abilities!

1. Build connection and sympathize well

Taking care of someone with dementia can be challenging and emotionally taxing. However, it is necessary to make them feel fine and comfortable, as the happening of the event is inevitable, and even the person does not want to be in this situation of forgetfulness. Make them feel at ease by bonding well with them and spending time building connections with them so they won’t feel alienated or isolated by their illness. Assure them by responding positively in response to their confusion or uncertainty and show affection. No need to blame them or criticize them for forgetting important and personal pieces of information.

Building connection would help you to communicate well with the patient and mutually benefit the caretaker, and the patient as the patient won’t hesitate in expressing their feelings, and you’ll be able to discuss the medications and medical reports with them and involve them while taking necessary decisions. Be sympathetic to them and let them know you are there for them whenever they need. How you feel towards them and their illness would probably reflect in your expressions and actions so make sure to be kind and compassionate for them and be patient.

Also Read: Dementia Patients Do Not Receive Post-Diagnosis Care

2. Engage with them in some activities to make them stay busy and preoccupied

Watch photo albums with them, point out to people in photographs for them, you can tell stories, and share moments of them with their loved ones. Remind the people with dementia of the joyful moments and the emotions they felt at particular events. Make sure that whatever you are doing with people having dementia, it should be fun and joyful, not something from which they might get offended or which drains their energy.

Having dementia doesn’t really mean that they no longer deserve joy and fun. Take them for outings, make them visit their favorite places or the places that felt like home to them previously. You can go with them to the places where they felt strong emotions or made some good memories, it may work for them as a reminder of the good old days and they may be able to remember some glimpses of the moments from the past and relive them. Sketching or painting is a great way to spend time with people having dementia, which keeps them busy refreshes their minds and may calm their minds and bodies.

Perform art therapy as sometimes people with dementia find it difficult to express their feelings properly as they’re short of words, here art therapy might do wonders. People with dementia can also do their favorite activities like dancing, singing, swimming, or walking sessions in the park as spending time with nature makes people feel better and also helps the caretaker get relaxed for a bit.

Also Read: Talk Therapy for Depression in Dementia Patients

3. Set reminders and keep a well-maintained routine

Making a routine fixed for everyone helps people with dementia to a great extent as it gives them a sense of independence. Make people with dementia follow a daily routine from waking up, and getting dressed to going to bed for sleep at night. Let them eat, sleep, and go for a walk in the park at exactly the same time every day. This way they’ll get a schedule to follow and It’ll help them stay in control. Serve them meals at the same place and in look-alike utensils every day so they get accustomed to it. Help them make a To-do list for themselves of the things they forget, appointments, or any event lined up in the day and set reminders on their mobile phones for them to follow. Set reminders for people with dementia to take their medicines regularly and on time.

Take it slowly as there’s no rush, and assure them that you are there for them in helping them accomplish every task step by step. It’ll boost their confidence and make them feel that they are not alone in this. Don’t be impatient or respond aggressively to their needs. Let them know it’s okay to make mistakes or it’s fine if they weren’t able to stick to the routine initially.

4. Make their house feel like home to them

Surround their resting place with soft cessions and bedsheets. Cover the floor with a mattress. Put familial photographs, framed on their walls and bedside. Surround people having dementia with well-loved objects and artifacts, the things they received as gifts or have some hardcore memory associated with it.

Keep the things that make people with dementia feel happy and give them joy. Paint the walls with pastel colors and hang some light-colored curtains so it won’t irritate them. You can also hang the drawings made by their grandchildren or some delightful simple art on the walls of the house. Play some soothing music or relaxing tones for them to hum or their favorite songs for them to enjoy. Keep the pointed, harmful substances away from their sight and reach. Place cloth or another material on the sharp edges of stairs or cupboards to prevent them from causing harm.

Also Read: Pseudodementia: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

5. Plan the future beforehand

People with dementia face significant challenges in making important decisions or participating in essential tasks due to their medical conditions. Therefore, it’s crucial to seek their permission or obtain their consent in advance for any plans or actions. Start discussing matters like business deals or investments, about operations or surgeries if needed in the future, and take their thoughts and conditions in mind. Ask them about their wills regarding financial matters and funeral and burial arrangements.

6. Ask for help when in need

Being a caregiver, it’s more than okay to ask someone for help without a second thought. It’s tiring and quite exhausting for the caretaker to be present and watch out every time for their loved ones who have dementia, to look upon and monitor their activities and schedule every single time, and to handle them well in their changing moods and behavior. Some people overthink or feel bad asking for help, they think bad for not being able to take care of their loved ones alone but they need to understand that it’s completely normal to take some time off for themselves in order to recharge themselves and enjoy their me time. At this time, they could call out to someone from the family for help or keep housekeeping services for some time until they feel the energy to get back on it again.

Also Read: Impact of Urban Design on Mental Health & Well-being

7. Join a caregiver’s support group online or offline based on your convenience

It’s a great decision to join some support groups for people with dementia. Here you’ll get to know various strategies and tips from people going through the same time. It’s a challenging situation and getting to know how you can deal with the same kind of situations differently provides a great help to the caregiver. There are various support groups online that conduct their weekly or monthly sessions in the presence of psychiatrists, psychologists, neurologists, and mental health experts. Feel free to interact with them by asking questions and seeking clarification about dementia and how to care for dementia patients. The experts provide answers according to the situation and help caregivers take care of their loved ones while being able to get time for their own lives.

8. Don’t force dementia patients

Let dementia patients make their own choices and do things according to their comfort. Let them be flexible and patiently observe them. Ask what they like, and take suggestions on what to make for lunch or dinner as this will make them feel like they are part of your lives and have some role in deciding on stuff. They’ll feel being an active member of the household.

If they don’t feel like going out for a walk at noon sometimes, don’t argue and force them into going out for a walk as it’s quite exhausting following the same old routine every single day. Try out something different instead. Be flexible and ask what they would like to do or what they feel like doing at the moment. Also, don’t force them into remembering something. If they are unable to remember someone or something important, give them clues or remind them, but don’t get angry or impatient with them as it’s not in their hands.

Also Read: Memory Loss and Its Impact on People

9. Get acquainted with the concept of Sundowning

As night falls, patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s experience triggers that exacerbate their symptoms, making them increasingly intolerant. They show increased confusion, memory loss, agitation, and restlessness. Additionally, crying, fear, stubbornness, pacing, and depression may also manifest at times. These symptoms constitute sundowning and typically occur between the hours of 4:30 and 11 pm.

What triggers Sundowning in patients of dementia is decreasing light as the daylight fades into night. Dementia patients generally maintain control over their routines, but they become agitated and restless when suddenly deprived of any activity to engage in. It also occurs when there is a disruption in one’s biological clocks. You can control sun-downing confusion and agitation in dementia patients by keeping them occupied with activities during the later hours of the day. Ensure there’s a balanced level of lighting in their room—not excessively bright nor too dark.

10. Try not to get offended or hurt when the person refuses to identify you.

Sometimes the caregiver feels so hurt and gets offended when the person whom the caregiver has been taking care of selflessly, asks ‘Who are you?’ or says words like ‘I don’t know you, don’t touch me, stay away.’ You need to understand that it is an illness, they can’t help with it or do it knowingly to insult you, and it doesn’t even mean that they love you any less. Give some time and take care of them dedicatedly and it will be all right.


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