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How To Handle A Loved One With Dementia

Tips On Transitioning A Loved One To Memory Dementia Or Alzheimer’s Care

WHEN YOUR LOVED ONE WITH DEMENTIA REPEATS THE SAME QUESTIONS: 5 TIPS

As your loved ones memory declines, or as the effects of dementia or Alzheimers disease become too much for the family or caregivers to handle, you will have to make the decision to place her in memory, dementia, or Alzheimers care. After you have consulted your family and her healthcare professionals, made financial arrangements, and chosen your loved ones new home, you have to prepare for transitioning her to a new level of care. You understand the need for the move, but it still is difficult for you to accept the decision, and your emotions run even higher when you think about telling your loved one and anticipate moving day.

To help ease the transition for your loved one , we have rounded up 50 tips from caregivers, memory care facility administrators, dementia and Alzheimers experts, and others who have experience in working with seniors who require special care. Keep in mind that everyone handles the transition differently, and you will need to use the tips that best fit your loved ones personality and needs and your situation. Please note, our 50 tips for easing the transition to memory, dementia, or Alzheimers care are not listed in order of importance or value in any way rather, we have categorized them to help you find the tips that will be most useful to you.

Learn To Break Things Down Into Steps

People living with dementia cant function the way you can. Complex tasks may be out of the question. But that doesnt mean they still cant handle the steps of the process.

Try breaking tasks down into smaller pieces. They may not be able to handle planting a new vegetable in the garden. But they can dig the hole for it, add the plant to the hole, and cover the roots up with dirt.

Keep in mind that they may forget the steps of the process, as well. You can use visual cues to help guide them through the process.

Living With: A Family Member With Dementia

Dementia is a disease that can bring grief to a family if it isnt handled correctly. There are so many myths circulating about the illness, and many people do not understand that dementia is a manageable condition. In fact, many families living with a dementia patient can find some peace and a little stability. It just takes a clear understanding of what dementia is and how it can be managed.

First, everyone must realize the dementia is a symptom of another, more complex disease or disorder. It isnt contagious and you cant just come down with it like a cold.There is always something else that leads to the dementia.

These conditions include:

  • Narrowing blood vessels
  • Head injuries
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease

Some of these conditions only cause a temporary form of dementia that can be overcome with physical therapy, medication and time. Other forms of dementia are degenerative, so they get worse as the years go on. If your loved one suffers from the latter versions, it is best to make their time with you as enjoyable as possible. To do so, you may have to accommodate the dementia sufferer while the disease is still manageable.

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Tips For Everyday Care For People With Dementia

Early on in Alzheimers and related dementias, people experience changes in thinking, remembering, and reasoning in a way that affects daily life and activities. Eventually, people with these diseases will need more help with simple, everyday tasks. This may include bathing, grooming, and dressing. It may be upsetting to the person to need help with such personal activities. Here are a few tips to consider early on and as the disease progresses:

  • Try to keep a routine, such as bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day.
  • Help the person write down to-do lists, appointments, and events in a notebook or calendar.
  • Plan activities that the person enjoys and try to do them at the same time each day.
  • Consider a system or reminders for helping those who must take medications regularly.
  • When dressing or bathing, allow the person to do as much as possible.
  • Buy loose-fitting, comfortable, easy-to-use clothing, such as clothes with elastic waistbands, fabric fasteners, or large zipper pulls instead of shoelaces, buttons, or buckles.
  • Use a sturdy shower chair to support a person who is unsteady and to prevent falls. You can buy shower chairs at drug stores and medical supply stores.
  • Be gentle and respectful. Tell the person what you are going to do, step by step while you help them bathe or get dressed.
  • Serve meals in a consistent, familiar place and give the person enough time to eat.

Dos And Donts When Dealing With Dementia

Tips on how to deal with dementia patients

Contributed by Christine BinneyDementia is a general term used to describe a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to impair a persons ability to perform everyday activities. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimers disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all cases. Common symptoms of dementia are problems with short-term memory and the ability to concentrate, with symptoms usually progressing rapidly over time.

Understanding how to care for someone with dementia can be difficult for anyone. You are exploring uncharted territory with your friend or loved one. It can be a scary and confusing time for both of you. To make the journey a bit less stressful, follow these dos and donts when dealing with dementia.RelationshipDo come to terms with the fact that your relationship with the dementia patient is going to change over time.

Dont bombard someone who is dealing with dementia by providing a long list of all the tasks that they have floundered with. Dont question their ability to handle a situation outright or else theyll become embarrassed and frustrated which will put them on the defensive.

Dont engage in an argument or be contradictory. Dont correct everything a dementia patient says to you, as the accuracy of the information is not as important as the thought or feeling they are trying to convey. Dont forget that this aggressive behavior is not deliberate, but is often just a symptom of the dementia.

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Tip : Deal With Anxiety And Depression

Depression and anxiety are common among early stage Alzheimers patients. Symptoms such as withdrawal, agitation, feelings of worthlessness, and changes in your sleeping patterns can make dementia symptoms worse, though, and limit your independence. Dont ignore symptoms. As well as counseling and medication, there are plenty of self-help steps that can help you overcome anxiety and depression.

  • Learning how to challenge anxious thoughts and develop a more balanced way of looking at your new situation can help you come to terms with your diagnosis and ease anxiety.
  • Opening up and talking about your fears and other emotions with someone who makes you feel safe and supported can help boost your mood.
  • Exercising regularly, eating well, and improving your sleep are also proven ways to help improve depression and anxiety symptoms.

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Recognize Triggers For Difficult Behavior And Stay Calm

If the delusions someone with dementia experiences are severe and may put them or you, the caregiver, at possible risk or harm, it is best to speak to a doctor to see if some medication may be needed.6

A person with dementia can be susceptible to depression, anxiety, agitation, hallucinations, aggression, and loss of inhibition.7 While anxiety and depression issues may need to be dealt with the help of a trained mental health professional, the other behavior may have to be managed by you. You can cope with difficult behavior like aggression by:8

  • Identifying triggers for the behavior to see if they can be fixed. Pain can often be the cause for the unusual behavior.
  • Staying calm.
  • Not taking the behavior personally. It is not directed at you, but just an expression of the emotions or confusion the patient is experiencing. This may be especially hard to do if the dementia has made them suspicious and theyre accusing you of things like theft, infidelity, or inappropriate behavior.
  • Avoiding arguments and confrontation.
  • Accepting this as a symptom of the illness as you would any other symptom of a disease.

Tips For Caregivers: Taking Care Of Yourself

Dementia and Delusions: Why do delusions happen and how should you respond?

Being a caregiver can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be overwhelming. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia takes time and effort. It can feel lonely and frustrating. You might even feel angry, which could be a sign you are trying to take on too much. It is important to find time to take care of yourself. Here are some tips that may offer some relief:

  • Ask for help when you need it. This could mean asking family members and friends to help or reaching out to for additional care needs.
  • Eat nutritious foods, which can help keep you healthy and active for longer.
  • Join a caregiver’s support group online or in person. Meeting other caregivers will give you a chance to share stories and ideas and can help keep you from feeling isolated.
  • Take breaks each day. Try making a cup of tea or calling a friend.
  • Spend time with friends and keep up with hobbies.
  • Get exercise as often as you can. Try doing yoga or going for a walk.
  • Try practicing meditation. Research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, anxiety and depression, and insomnia.
  • Consider seeking help from mental health professionals to help you cope with stress and anxiety. Talk with your doctor about finding treatment.

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Understand Why Someone With Dementia Says Mean Things

First, its important to understand why this hurtful behavior is happening.

Dementia is a brain disease that causes parts of the brain to shrink and lose their function, resulting in cognitive impairment.

These different parts control functions like memory, personality, behavior, and speech. Dementia also damages the ability to control impulses, which means actions arent intentional.

Even though its difficult, do your best to remember that they truly dont intend the mean things they say.

These mean comments and hurtful accusations often happen because the person is unable to express whats actually bothering them.

It could be triggered by something in their environment that causes discomfort, pain, fear, anxiety, helplessness, confusion, or frustration.

Working to accept the fact that theyre not doing this on purpose helps reduce stress and makes their behavior easier to manage.

The overall strategy is to take a deep breath, remind yourself that its not personal, take care of immediate discomfort or fear, and try to find the cause behind the behavior.

Next, look for long-term solutions that will help you get the support and rest you need to keep your cool in challenging situations like these.

Free Resource For Family Caregivers Of Loved Ones With Dementia

Right at Home created a free guide to help caregivers of older adults with Alzheimers disease or related form of dementia. The guide was built on the foundation of Right at Homes approach to supporting those with dementia, which focuses on a persons abilities, personhood, and the lifestyle risk factors known to increase symptoms. Visit our Alzheimers, Dementia and Cognitive Change webpage for more information and to download the guide.

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Talk With Your Family And Children About Caregiving

Be honest while explaining dementia to children. Children are very intuitive. They will know that their grandparent, aunt or uncle are changing and that their behavior is odd. Explain the disease and that loving the senior family member is most important. Engage them and empower them to be part of the caregiving process. Younger children can read to the senior, or help you with chores. The family will be less stressed when the situation is discussed out in the open.

You might also wish to share ideas with your kids on how to communicate with your loved one:

  • Go with it. If the grandparent says something that doesnt seem to make sense, tell children to just play along. Its sort of like playing make believe.
  • Plan ahead. Suggest what to talk about, or choose an activity in advance.
  • Use activities. Try a coloring book, listen to music or sing songs together.

Pay Attention To Your Loved Ones Changing Physical Needs

How to deal with repetitive questions of dementia patients ...

When caring for people with dementia, most of the attention goes toward a loved ones changing mental state, especially memory problems. But dementia patients also have changing physical needs that sometimes get missed or mistaken for behavioral problems from dementia.

Keep an eye out for changes in:

  • The ability to dress oneself. This means caregivers should purchase clothes that are easy to wear, and that wont cause skin irritation.
  • The ability to communicate or even speak Remaining flexible and finding different ways to communicate can make a world of difference.
  • Eating and swallowing. Pureed foods can be a blessing should this occur.

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Dont Use Slang Or Figures Of Speech

As dementia progresses, it can become harder for someone to understand what youre trying to tell them. For example, telling a loved one with Alzheimers disease that its “no use crying over spilled milk” might result in him looking to see where the milk has spilled, rather than end up comforting him or encouraging him not to focus on a past problem.

In fact, the proverb interpretation test, which asks the test taker to interpret abstract ideas such as the spilled milk reference above, is one way to screen for symptoms of dementia.

Know What To Expect: The Changing Needs And Habits Of Someone With Dementia

If someone has dementia, you might at first assume it may only impact their ability to remember things or learn. But this has more far-reaching impact than youd imagine. As the illness progresses, you may notice changes in these areas:3

  • Communication
  • Eating patterns, likes, and dislikes
  • Continence or ability to control when they answer natures call
  • Sleeping habits

While this can be unnerving, it is something that can be managed with awareness, practice, and the right help. What follows are some guidelines and tips that could make the experience of caring for a loved one with dementia a little easier on you and them.

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Caregiving In The Early Stages Of Alzheimers Or Dementia

In the early stages of Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia, your loved one may not need much caregiving assistance. Rather, your role initially may be to help them come to terms with their diagnosis, plan for the future, and stay as active, healthy, and engaged as possible.

Accept the diagnosis. Accepting a dementia diagnosis can be just as difficult for family members as it for the patient. Allow yourself and your loved one time to process the news, transition to the new situation, and grieve your losses. But dont let denial prevent you from seeking early intervention.

Deal with conflicting emotions. Feelings of anger, frustration, disbelief, grief, denial, and fear are common in the early stages of Alzheimers or dementiafor both the patient and you, the caregiver. Let your loved one express what theyre feeling and encourage them to continue pursuing activities that add meaning and purpose to their life. To deal with your own fears, doubts, and sadness, find others you can confide in.

Make use of available resources. There are a wealth of community and online resources to help you provide effective care on this journey. Start by finding the Alzheimers Association in your country . These organizations offer practical support, helplines, advice, and training for caregivers and their families. They can also put you in touch with local support groups.

How Can I Support Someone As Their Dementia Progresses

These 3 things are making things worse between you and your loved one with dementia

In the later-stages of dementia the person may become increasingly dependent on others for their care.

They may have severe memory loss at this stage and fail to recognise those close to them. They may lose weight , lose their ability to walk, become incontinent, and behave in unusual ways.

Not everyone will show all these signs, and some people may show them earlier on in the illness.

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Loss Of The Hope Of Reconciliation

Another special aspect of Alzheimer’s grief and ambiguous loss comes from the loss of the hope of reconciliation with the patient. Sadly, the disease can progress quite significantly before the angry spouse or child realizes that the opportunity for reconciliation, for “tying up loose ends” or for communicating those long-felt-but-hidden thoughts and feelings has been lost forever: the person with Alzheimer’s can no longer remember, reason, reflect, apologize, or forgive. Sometimes, a family member may not even know consciously that they held such a hope that one day issues between them and the person with dementia would be resolved or at least admitted until the moment they realize the opportunity is lost to the disease. Again, this is ambiguous and difficult to name, discuss, or resolve one’s self and is difficult for others to understand as well.

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