Dementia is a devastating condition which will inevitably progress over time. It can make yours and your loved ones’ lives very difficult. No matter how prepared you believe you are, caring for a person with dementia is challenging and draining.
This is a new situation and completely new territory for both sides, and it’s going to take a while for you to understand what’s expected of you and what’s best for them. To help you on this stressful journey, we have gathered a list of things you should know while caring for someone who has dementia.
People with dementia can sometimes act or speak aggressively out of the blue. They can be calm and peaceful at one moment and upset the very next. When this happens to you, try to remind yourself that the person you’re caring for isn’t doing it on purpose. They are probably scared and reluctant to do what’s expected of them but don’t know how to voice their feelings.
The worst thing you can do is engage in an argument and repeatedly tell them ‘no’. Try identifying the cause of their aggression and shift their attention elsewhere while talking in a low, calming voice. Depending on the person and what they need, getting them a bit of space for a while can also be a good idea.
Dementia patients may be struggling to keep up, but they still deserve our respect, love, and patience. Their sense of self-worth is very fragile so showing common courtesy will help them feel better and calm them down. When addressing them, use their name, speak softly, and repeat what you said if you notice they didn’t understand.
Respect their privacy and don’t talk as if they’re not in the room, but rather try engaging them in conversations. Acknowledge their feelings instead of brushing them aside and refrain from scolding and criticizing.
Ask for Help
Even the most resilient and strongest of us can’t always cope with caring for a person with dementia, especially if siblings or aging parents are in question. If you’re working long hours, it’s impossible to keep an eye on them for too long, but leaving them alone isn’t an option either. You could try hiring someone to help you around the house, or you could get them to a dementia care center.
There will be people who will make sure that they get enough exercise, eat, and get their medication on time, and you will be able to visit them whenever you can. Don’t neglect yourself; your physical and mental health should be important to you and if you feel like things are getting out of hand, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help.
Embrace Therapeutic Lies
Sometimes honesty isn’t always the best policy when you’re dealing with dementia patients. Telling them that the spouse they’re asking about has passed away years ago will do nothing but cause them anguish and confusion. Instead of telling them the truth, you could say that they’ve gone to the store.
Keeping dementia patients grounded in reality is necessary but not always, so you should choose to tell them some of these “therapeutic lies” to keep them calm. Patients in the middle or last stages of dementia can’t be reasoned with as their sense of logic is lost, so white lies are a much better option.
It happens that many dementia patients simply refuse to ask for help when performing their daily tasks, even if they evidently struggle. They might be afraid to do so, or even ashamed, and asking for help would mean they’re giving up control which isn’t comfortable in their condition.
Even those simple tasks such as taking medications or preparing a meal can be difficult to do, and this is where you should step in. Be gentle when asking if they need help, mention that the task they’re struggling with can sometimes be very difficult, and offer your help. You shouldn’t question their ability to handle the situation or they’ll be ashamed, but rather stay close and try to step in when you notice the struggle.
Dementia usually starts off as slow and benign, the elderly seem confused and often repeat themselves. On the other hand, as the disease progresses, there are angry or often violent outbursts and the condition is no longer benign. When caring for a person with dementia, the most important thing is to stay calm and patient, and when you witness an outburst, remind yourself that they aren’t doing it to upset you, but rather because they’re upset.