Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging, but learning how to best communicate with the person you’re caring for can help. Dementia is defined by the NHS as a syndrome associated with declining brain function. Dementia has a number of distressing symptoms including memory loss, poor judgement, finding everyday tasks challenging and changes in personality and temperament. Alzheimer’s is one of the main types of dementia, and as part of Dementia Action Week 2022 we discuss ways of caring for someone with dementia:
Due to the nature of the condition, dementia can cause daily life to change significantly for the person living with it and the people around them. It’s important to remember that while some aspects of the person’s routine may need to change, they should still be encouraged to do things they enjoy and are capable of doing including hobbies and socialising. You may find that situations the person used to enjoy are now overwhelming, but if you ensure things are done on a smaller, more manageable scale it can help to make things easier.
Create a calm and positive atmosphere
Remember it’s understandable and normal to feel stressed, sad or frustrated while caring for someone with dementia. If the person you’re caring for is a close family member, seeing their memory deteriorate or changes to their mood can be unsettling. Many people caring for someone with dementia may find themselves becoming angry from time to time, especially if you juggle other daily tasks such as working or raising a family. It’s important not to feel guilty about this – it’s perfectly normal. If you have family members or friends who can help, even if only for a while, it may be just the break you need to return refreshed. Creating a positive, calming atmosphere is likely to make your loved one feel more relaxed. Consider becoming a Dementia Friend to learn more about what it is like to live with dementia and turn that understanding into action.
Make daily life as easy as possible
Depending on the severity of their dementia, you may find your loved one requires prompting to do certain tasks they used to take for granted such as washing, using the bathroom and eating. To help them retain their independence, you can remind them if you think they haven’t eaten for a while for example, or help use images or alarms to help to remind your loved one or convey messages that you’re struggling to communicate. Personal Alarm services such as sensors, GPS trackers and medication prompts can all help to make daily life easier for someone living with dementia. You can now purchase personal alarms online for quick and easy set up. If your loved one has early onset dementia, a personal alarm is also a useful way to help retain independence.
Don’t try to change your loved one’s behaviour
Your natural instinct may be to try and reassure your loved one that their feelings are nothing to worry about and that they’re being caused by dementia. This is well meaning, but their feelings are valid, so reassurance instead goes a long way. As hard as it is, accepting the changes to your loved one’s personality no matter how difficult can help both you and them. You can help to promote positive behaviours and routines by leading by example.
If the person you love begins forming unusual habits it can seem unexplainable, but sometimes habits are born out of a feeling and are a way of expressing or releasing something that the person doesn’t otherwise feel able to do. For example, repeatedly being short with you may be a sign of frustration at leading a different life, or repetitive daily habits may be a way of regaining some control and organisation over the person’s life once more. Try to be understanding and find other ways for your loved one to express emotions. Patience goes a long way – if the habits are harmless you may want to consider leaving them be.
Don’t be hard on yourself
Caring for someone with dementia can be difficult and comparing yourself to other carers or having a bad day can leave you feeling frustrated or like you have let a loved one down. It’s especially important not to blame yourself for a bad day – try to remember all the good things you do and don’t be too hard on yourself.
To find out more about how personal alarms support can help you care for someone with dementia, please contact us or to find out more about Alzheimer’s and support available this World Alzheimer’s Day please visit https://www.alzheimers.org.uk.