How to Care for a Senior Relative with Dementia

One person in the world develops dementia every three seconds, and there are an estimated fifty million or more people worldwide currently living with this condition. It is clear to see that it is a very real problem, and if you have an elderly relative or loved one who is suffering from dementia, getting their care right is hugely important to help them maintain a good quality of life with this condition.

Dementia does not only affect the individual but also has an impact on family members and the other people around them. Navigating the difficult and often emotional path that comes with caring for somebody with dementia can be daunting, but the good news is that there are several things that you can do to make it easier on both of you. 

What Happens When Somebody Gets Dementia?

Understanding dementia and how it affects the person is important for providing the right care. Dementia is the term that is used to describe the loss of behavioral and cognitive functions, particularly in the elderly. It can have an impact on somebody’s ability to think, reason, and remember, solve problems, manage their own life and perceive things visually. It can also cause a lack of control over one’s emotions which can lead to changes in behavior and personality. 

How Dementia Changes Needs and Habits

Many people assume that only memory and learning abilities are affected by dementia, but the truth is that this condition’s impact can often reach much further. As the condition progresses in your loved one, you may notice some changes to their communication, behavior, likes and dislikes, eating patterns, continence, and sleeping habits. 

Seeking Professional Help

Many people with dementia will do better when they are in an environment that offers professional care, help, and support. For this reason, many family members decide to move their loved ones to a senior facility such as this village for senior living in Chicago where they can retain as much independence as possible while having access to experienced and knowledgeable caregivers who are trained in providing dementia care. This can help to keep somebody with dementia as safe as possible, especially as the condition progresses and they become more forgetful and confused. 

Communicating with Your Loved One

It is often necessary to change the way that you communicate with a loved one who is suffering from dementia. Be patient, clear, and slow in your communication. You can also use physical touch to help communicate and draw them back into reality if they are becoming confused or hallucinating. Sometimes hugging or holding hands can be an effective way of communicating and calming somebody with dementia down when talking fails. You might find that it is helpful to eliminate as many distractions as possible when communicating and ask simple questions that have yes or no answers to avoid further confusion.

Recognize Triggers

A person who has dementia may be at a higher risk of conditions such as anxiety, depression, irritability and agitation, hallucinations, loss of inhibition, and aggression. You may find it easier to cope with difficult behaviors such as aggression by noticing what typically triggers these behaviors in your relative and identifying them to see if they can be fixed or presented in a different way. In many dementia patients, pain can often be a large trigger for unusual behavior. It is important to stay calm and remember not to take the behavior personally; it is not directed at you and is simply a way to express the emotions or confusion that your relative is feeling at the time. Avoid arguments, be empathetic, and recognize that this is a symptom of the illness. 

Keep Up Social Connections

Studies have found that staying social can improve our mental and cognitive health, especially in older adults. Encourage people to visit and spend time with your relative – even ten minutes per day of social contact can be very useful for the management of symptoms and reducing pain and confusion, according to one study. Try to help your relatives keep up with their usual routine and create as much normalcy as possible in their life. For example, go with them for their regular walks in the park or accompany them to church on Sundays if they have always gone. 

Offer Support with Daily Tasks

A person with dementia might require more help and support with their daily tasks that they have successfully managed alone until now. It can help to have a set routine, and offer support rather than giving in to the temptation of doing everything for them, which can cause feelings of guilt or shame to arise. Instead, offer to go around the house with them to do jobs together and consider using notes at critical locations to help them remember what needs to be done next or how to do something. 

Encourage Restful Sleep

Sleep problems are a common issue for some seniors who suffer from dementia. To encourage restful sleep, doctors suggest using non-drug options such as having comfortable bedding, the right room temperature, and a soft light that allows them to see their surroundings but is not so dark that it can make their home feel dangerous and unfamiliar. Comfortable nightwear, a soothing drink, and listening to calming music or reading to them before bed can also help them wind down and get a restful night of sleep. 

Encourage Good Nutrition

It can be easy for somebody with dementia to forget to eat balanced meals or even eat at all, which can make them more susceptible to malnutrition and deficiencies. Keep track of their diet and keep healthy snacks and drinks visible to them at all times. Bear in mind that a loss of the sense of smell can be quite common in dementia patients, so it might help to use meals with stronger flavors and seasoning to help keep up their appetite and encourage them to eat well. 

Caring for a relative with dementia can be an emotional and heart-wrenching experience. By understanding the condition and their changing needs, you can help to improve their quality of life.

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