Caring for a loved one with dementia presents many challenges for families and caregivers. Individuals with dementia struggle with a brain disorder that makes it difficult for them to recall memories, think clearly, and properly take care of themselves. Dementia can also dramatically change the behavior or personality of those afflicted.
With more than 5 million adults living with dementia in the U.S., it’s important to understand how to care for family members should they begin to show early symptoms of dementia.
Here are a few steps that you can take if your loved one begins to exhibit signs of dementia.
Focus on health.
Dementia can progress rapidly for some, while for others it may take years to reach an advanced stage. However, there may be some hope in staving off the effects of dementia. A recent study showed certain types of brain games had a significant effect on improving cognitive efficiency, independent living, and health. It’s also worth noting that reducing stress, exercising regularly, and maintaining a balanced diet can go a long way in promoting general health.
Examine safety risks.
Adapt the home environment to the special needs of your loved one as their abilities change over time. Start by evaluating safety risks by going room to room to determine what pose a danger. Some everyday items may need to be reconsidered – remove rugs with corners that could be tripped over and install grab bars in shower stalls. Be sure to lock up potentially hazardous products like medication that they might not remember they already took that morning.
Changes in speech patterns are unique to each person with dementia. As the disease progresses, you may notice them begin to repeat phrases, invent new words to describe familiar objects, or speak less often. Be patient and supportive – be careful not to interrupt or criticize. Encourage them to continue explaining their thoughts. When addressing them, use their name to get their attention; it’s a familiar word that they tend to remember best.
Keep them active.
Help them continue to engage in everyday activities. This can help them maintain a continued sense of self. Consider their hobbies, routines, and activities – this will help you determine what is important to them. Focus on their interests and their strengths. Building on current skills can be much easier than trying to teach something new.
Eventually your loved one will need more intensive and professional care than you can provide. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, home care might be worth considering. Home care providers can assist with activities of daily living while keeping your family member in the familiarity of their own home. Later stages of dementia may require a memory care facility which provides intensive, long-term medical care to seniors with serious health conditions in a fully-staffed and monitored facility. Research options on caregiving as soon as possible so you are ready when more significant changes in their condition occur.
Facing new challenges and changes as your loved one’s condition progresses can feel overwhelming–there is no one-size-fits all formula when it comes to caring for someone with dementia. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, consider enlisting the help of a caregiver. To learn more about the services Home Care by ALTRES Medical provides, give us a call at (808) 591-4930.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice nor is it intended to diagnose health problems. Readers should first consult with their physician or health care provider before acting upon any information in this article.