Choosing to become the caregiver of a loved one means that your road ahead will not be an easy one, and will require some significant changes in your everyday life. Since dementia is a progressive and degenerative brain disorder, your responsibilities as a caregiver will increase overtime as your loved one’s memory, communicative skills, thought processing, and ability to care for themselves gradually declines. This article is not meant to discourage you from becoming a family caregiver, but to more you aware and prepare you for the road ahead. With that being said, here is a list of 10 tips you can use when caring for a loved one with dementia.
1. Learn as much as you can – It is important to learn as much as you can about your loved one’s illness, its treatments, and the factors that go along with caring for such an illness. The more you are aware of what you are dealing with the better prepared and confident you will be in your new role.
2. Listen with ALL of your senses – With dementia patients, you need to be listening with more than just your ears. At times your loved one will have difficulty saying and meaning what they are trying to communicate to you. You will have to learn to interpret what they are trying to say when they can’t.
3. Patience is key – There will be good days and bad days. Your ability to be patient throughout both the good and the bad will not only help your loved one feel at ease, but it will also help become a better caretaker.
4. Keep your sense of humor – Remember, dementia patients are gradually experiencing loss in memory and thought processing. There will be times when their actions may seem a little strange or out of the norm. By having a good sense of humor about what you do, you will make your job easier for yourself in the long run.
5. Remember how they once were – When you are faced with the day-in and day-out struggles of caring for someone with a progressive brain disorder, it can be easy to forget how you knew them when they were healthy and without their illness. Hold tight to those memories, they will help you to feel more compassion and understanding during the more difficult days.
6. It’s OK to take a break – Just because you have taken on the role of full-time caregiver, does not mean that you don’t deserve to take some R&R every once in a while. Make sure to take some time every once in a while that is solely for you.
7. Let it roll off – If you can imagine, it can be very frustrating at times to not be able to communicate or remember how you used to, which can lead to frustration and bouts of aggression. Try to understand that these episodes really have nothing to do with you and let them roll off when they occur.
8. Involve other family members – You don’t have to do this alone, even if you have taken on the role of full-time caregiver. Educate your family members in your loved one’s care so they too have more understanding and feel more confident in lending a helping hand every once and a while.
9. State questions clearly and simply – When dealing with dementia patients, you will want to learn to state your questions slowly and in a very direct and to the point manner. Refrain from raising your voice and avoid the use of vague terms like ‘there’ and ‘he’ or ‘she’ – use actual names for people and locations.
10. Break down activities – Over time, even the seemingly more simple, daily tasks will become difficult for your loved one. By breaking down your activities into smaller steps, it can help relieve the anxiety your family member may get from attempting to achieve these tasks and it will make it an easier process for you both.
If you are someone you know is a family caregiver, and you have additional tips to offer, please share them with us in the comment box below.
Live Mentally Healthy,
Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill