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Dementia is a disease in older adults that refers to an impairment in one’s ability to think, remember, and make decisions. Symptoms may start slowly but gradually increase in severity. Over time, it can affect a person’s ability to carry out everyday functions, such as eating, dressing, or bathing. It can even result in changes in personality and behavior. In advanced stages, it can take their ability to care for themselves and express their needs.
Taking care of a family member or another senior with dementia entails considerable time, effort, and finances. Fortunately, there are steps required to ensure that they’re safe, comfortable, and happy in the home or hospice. These considerations may entail several adjustments to ensure that the needs of the person with dementia are addressed with love and acceptance by everyone.
1. Do Your Research
Caring for someone with dementia begins with knowing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Family members may need to consult with a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or geriatrician to formulate an appropriate care plan.
Awareness helps caregivers anticipate the changes that can happen to a senior’s ability to remember, speak, move, and interact over time. It also allows family members to grasp the severity of the disease and the demands of caring for someone with dementia in terms of time, effort, patience, and finances.
This information also helps loved ones explore available options and decide when to start planning for memory care. Family members may choose to entirely accommodate their loved ones with dementia or consider assisted living as an option in the future.
2. Ensure Home Safety
Home care requires several adjustments to ensure the safety of seniors. Prevent potentially dangerous slips and falls by removing electrical cords, rugs, or furniture in areas they pass through. Install handrails, showers, bath seating, and a toilet seat riser so it would be convenient for seniors when they go to the bathroom.
Keep them from wandering outdoors alone by installing locks at the top or bottom of doors and gates. You may even install signs or paint a portion of the door or wall with black to deter them from going out.
Additionally, ensure adequate lighting in rooms, hallways, and stairs. Use motion-sensor lights to guide them during the night. Set up detectors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and home security systems so you can monitor loved ones and caregivers even when you’re at work.
3. Communicate With Them
Communication is essential in caring for persons with dementia. You would need to continually get their attention and be patient in waiting for their reply. They may struggle for words or call everyday items with unusual terms or non-verbal cues that you would need to pay attention to.
Effective communication also helps you handle troubling behavior, understand their outbursts, and assure them when they feel fearful or suspicious of others. You can use gentle words to redirect their attention or express empathy for their feelings.
Simple directions and choices can relieve the stress from caregiving and help foster relationships despite their condition.
4. Diet and Nutrition
People with dementia slowly begin to forget that they need to eat or drink. They may even lose their appetite because of medication or if they experience difficulty chewing or swallowing.
You would need to prepare food in bite-sized chunks or consider serving soft or pureed food instead. They must eat healthily and drink plenty of water to prevent weight loss.
5. Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Caring for someone with dementia can be exhausting; assisting seniors day in and day out can tire you. Also, dealing with troublesome behavior can be both emotionally and mentally challenging.
Be aware of the signs of caregiver burnout and take necessary steps to prevent it from turning into a full-blown depression. Talk to family members and ask them to share caring responsibilities.
In assisted living, don’t be afraid to ask for help from colleagues. Find time to take some rest and eat healthy so you can renew your energy and enthusiasm for caregiving.
Caring can be a challenging task. Individuals with this responsibility need to look out for the welfare of the person with dementia. Ensure the safety and nutrition of those entrusted in their care as it may sometimes take a toll on their health and emotions.
Additionally, reaching out to support groups can relieve stress and prevent caregiver burnout. Simultaneously, these associations can become an excellent resource as caregivers continue to care for people with dementia.