Understanding And Supporting A Person With Dementia
This page can help you understand what a person with dementia is going through in order to give them the help and support they need to live well.
Understanding and supporting someone with dementia
Living with dementia can have a big emotional, social, psychological and practical impact on a person. Many people with dementia describe these impacts as a series of losses and adjusting to them is challenging.
This page aims to give people – and carers in particular – a better understanding of what it is like to have dementia. It looks at ways to support someone to live well with the condition, based on that understanding. It also looks at how supporting someone with dementia can affect carers.
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Being A Supportive Friend: 12 Ways To Help An Alzheimer’s Caregiver
One in eight Americans over the age of 65 and almost half of those over 85 have Alzheimers disease or a related type of dementia .
Alzheimers disease , the most common form of dementia, involves gradual breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. Affected persons lose the ability to interpret information and to send messages to their body to behave in certain ways. Over time they experience mental, emotional, behavioral and physical changes, necessitating increasing amounts of supervision and, eventually, hands-on help with activities of daily living.
Family members, particularly wives and daughters, provide most and in many cases all of that care. They are at increased risk for depression and other health problems due to the emotional strain and the physical toll of caregiving.
The following are some things that you, as a friend or relative, can do to help prevent an Alzheimers caregiver you know from wearing down.
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Learn About Burnout In Alzheimers Caregivers
Dementia care is incredibly demanding and emotionally challenging. Deciding to care for a loved one with Alzheimers at home is a huge decision that affects all aspects of a family caregivers life. Taking steps to prioritize self-care is crucial for your well-being and that of your care recipient.
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Tips For Changes In Communication And Behavior For People With Dementia
Communication can be hard for people with Alzheimers and related dementias because they have trouble remembering things. They also can become agitated and anxious, even angry. In some forms of dementia, language abilities are affected such that people have trouble finding the right words or have difficulty speaking. You may feel frustrated or impatient, but it is important to understand that the disease is causing the change in communication skills. To help make communication easier, you can:
- Reassure the person. Speak calmly. Listen to his or her concerns and frustrations. Try to show that you understand if the person is angry or fearful.
- Allow the person to keep as much control in his or her life as possible.
- Respect the persons personal space.
- Build quiet times into the day, along with activities.
- Keep well-loved objects and photographs around the house to help the person feel more secure.
- Remind the person who you are if he or she doesnt remember, but try not to say, Dont you remember?
- Encourage a two-way conversation for as long as possible.
- Try distracting the person with an activity, such as a familiar book or photo album, if you are having trouble communicating with words.
Resources For Alzheimer’s Care
Explore the Alzheimers.gov portal for information and resources on Alzheimers and related dementias caregiving from across the federal government.Phone: 1-800-438-4380
Alzheimer’s AssociationPhone: 1-800-272-3900
The Alzheimer’s Association offers information, a help line, and support services to people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Local chapters across the country offer support groups, including many that help with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Call or go online to find out where to get help in your area. The Association also funds Alzheimer’s research.
Alzheimer’s Foundation of AmericaPhone: 1-866-232-8484
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provides information about how to care for people with Alzheimer’s, as well as a list of services for people with the disease. It also offers information for caregivers and their families through member organizations. Services include a toll-free hotline, publications, and other educational materials.
Eldercare LocatorPhone: 1-800-677-1116
Caregivers often need information about community resources, such as home care, adult day care, and nursing homes. Contact the Eldercare Locator to find these resources in your area. The Eldercare Locator is a service of the Administration on Aging. The Federal Government funds this service.
Phone: 1-800-222-2225TTY: 1-800-222-4225
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Forgetting Recent Conversations Or Events
People with dementia may find it hard to remember recent conversations and events, even in the early stages. Keep in mind that the person isnt ‘being difficult’.
Due to the damage that is causing the persons dementia, their brain may not have stored the information. This means that they cannot bring back the memory of the event or discussion because they may not have that memory.
Devise A Daily Routine
In much the same way that a familiar home environment is reassuring, establishing a daily sequence of tasks and activities also helps keep Alzheimers patients focused and oriented. Begin by observing your loved ones daily routines and looking for patterns in their mood and behavior. This information will help you alter your expectations and optimize your care plan. For example, if they tend to be less confused and more cooperative in the morning, then adapting your routine to make the most of those lucid moments may help the entire day go more smoothly.
Keep in mind that Alzheimers patients abilities and preferences often fluctuate from day to day, so try to be flexible and adapt as needed. From there, consider incorporating the tips below into your Alzheimers care plan to ensure a long, safe and successful home-based care experience for you and your loved one.
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Communicating With An Alzheimer’s Patient
Coping With Changes In Behavior And Personality
As well as changes in communication during the middle stages of dementia, troubling behavior and personality changes can also occur. These behaviors include aggressiveness, wandering, hallucinations, and eating or sleeping difficulties that can be distressing to witness and make your role as caregiver even more difficult.
Often, these behavioral issues are triggered or exacerbated by your loved ones inability to deal with stress, their frustrated attempts to communicate, or their environment. By making some simple changes, you can help ease your loved ones stress and improve their well-being, along with your own caregiving experience.
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Having Difficulties With Day
As dementia progresses, the person will have more difficulties with daily tasks, such as getting dressed, making a cup of tea, or taking medication. This may be because these tasks involve following a set of steps, and the person with dementia cannot remember in what order these steps are supposed to be followed.
When a person begins to have difficulties with familiar tasks, it can be worrying for those around them. You may be concerned about the persons safety and their ability to manage. You may feel that you have to stop the person from doing certain tasks, or start doing these tasks for them.
However, it is important to support the person to do as much as possible for themselves, for as long as they can.
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Caregiving In The Middle Stages Of Alzheimers Or Dementia
As your loved ones Alzheimers disease or dementia symptoms progress, theyll require more and more careand youll need more and more support as their caregiver. Your loved one will gradually experience more extensive memory loss, may become lost in familiar settings, no longer be able to drive, and fail to recognize friends and family. Their confusion and rambling speech can make communicating more of a challenge and they may experience disturbing mood and behavior changes along with sleep problems.
Youll need to take on more responsibilities as your loved one loses independence, provide more assistance with the activities of daily living, and find ways of coping with each new challenge. Balancing these tasks with your other responsibilities requires attention, planning, and lots of support.
Ask for help. You cannot do it all alone. Its important to reach out to other family members, friends, or volunteer organizations to help with the daily burden of caregiving. Schedule frequent breaks throughout the day to pursue your hobbies and interests and stay on top of your own health needs. This is not being neglectful or disloyal to your loved one. Caregivers who take regular time away not only provide better care, they also find more satisfaction in their caretaking roles.
Activities That Promote Healthy Eating
- Cook together ask the person about their favorite meal and work together to make it. Or look up healthy cooking videos online and try to make them yourselves.
- Plant vegetables together in the garden or in pots.
- Have a picnic together bring healthy food options the person likes. Bring a portable or camping chair if the person has trouble sitting on the ground.
Pain Scale For People With Dementia
Pain scales can also help staff and family caregivers assess whether a person with dementia is in pain, especially if the person canât tell you in words.
These pain scales record the signs and symptoms that are likely to indicate the presence and intensity of pain that the person is experiencing. For example, the Abbey Pain Scale can be used to help measure pain for persons with dementia who cannot express themselves verbally. This scale suggests six possible signs of pain:
- Vocalizations such as whimpering, groaning, crying
- Facial expressions such as looking tense, frowning, grimacing, looking frightened
- Changes in body language such as fidgeting, rocking, guarding a part of the body, becoming withdrawn
- Behavioural changes such as increased confusion, refusing to eat, change in usual behaviour patterns
- Physiological changes such as temperature, pulse or abnormal blood pressure, perspiring, flushing or becoming pale
- Physical changes such as skin tears, pressure areas, arthritis, contractures
Keep Things Simpleand Other Tips
Caregivers cannot stop Alzheimers-related changes in personality and behavior, but they can learn to cope with them. Here are some tips:
- Keep things simple. Ask or say one thing at a time.
- Have a daily routine, so the person knows when certain things will happen.
- Reassure the person that he or she is safe and you are there to help.
- Focus on his or her feelings rather than words. For example, say, You seem worried.
- Dont argue or try to reason with the person.
- Try not to show your frustration or anger. If you get upset, take deep breaths and count to 10. If its safe, leave the room for a few minutes.
- Use humor when you can.
- Give people who pace a lot a safe place to walk. Provide comfortable, sturdy shoes. Give them light snacks to eat as they walk, so they dont lose too much weight, and make sure they have enough to drink.
- Try using music, singing, or dancing to distract the person.
- Ask for help. For instance, say, Lets set the table or I need help folding the clothes.
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How To Offer Help To Someone With Dementia Who Doesnt Want It
Do you know a person with dementia or memory problems who is refusing offers of help? Here are a few ways to support someone who may be in denial about their situation.
It is common for someone living with dementia to deny that they are experiencing issues with their memory or other aspects of cognition.
This could be due to denial or lack of insight. Similar to denial, lack of insight means that a person with dementia is unable to recognise changes in their behaviour and personality.
Continued denial can cause problems in the person’s future. They may refuse to accept help, there could be delays in starting or stopping medication, or they may continue to drive despite it not being safe for them to do so.
Forgetting Names And Words
People with dementia may have difficulties finding the right word in a conversation. They might feel stuck because the word is on the tip of their tongue. They may confuse one word for another for example saying glue instead of shoe. They may also forget the meaning of certain words.
In a similar way, a person with dementia might forget peoples names, even those of friends or family members whom they have known for a long time and are close to.
These difficulties can make it harder to communicate with a person with dementia. However, there are a number of ways to support conversation.
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Learn More About Alzheimer’s
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be both rewarding and challenging. Whether you’re a new or seasoned caregiver, it can help to learn more about the condition:
- Talk to a doctor. Keep a log of changes in your loved ones memory, behavior, or mood.
- Attend classes. Nonprofits and other groups host caregiver classes and workshops.
- Read new research. Scientific breakthroughs in memory, treatment, and self-care can offer insight.
Find Engaging Activities And Encourage Socialization
Incorporate activities and hobbies that match your loved ones interests and abilities into their daily care plan. Building on current skills generally works better than trying to teach something new.
- Help the person get started and break activities down into small steps.
- Watch for signs of agitation or frustration. If they become irritated, gently help or redirect their attention to something else.
- To help maintain functional skills, enhance feelings of personal control and make good use of time, try to include them in an entire activity process. For instance, at mealtimes, encourage the person to play a role in helping prepare the food, set the table and clean up afterwards.
- Take advantage of adult day care services for Alzheimers patients, which provide various activities and social opportunities for seniors as well as respite time for caregivers.
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Tips For Caregivers And Families Of People With Dementia
On this page
A caregiver, sometimes referred to as a caretaker, refers to anyone who provides care for another person. Millions of people living in the United States take care of a friend or family member with Alzheimers disease or a related dementia. Sometimes caregivers live with the person or nearby, other times they live far away. For many families, caring for a person with dementia isnt just one persons job, but the role of many people who share tasks and responsibilities. No matter what kind of caregiver you are, taking care of another person can be overwhelming at times. These tips and suggestions may help with everyday care and tasks.