Being an effective caregiver for someone with dementia can be a rewarding but tough job.
You will definitely need to stay calm and have a sense of humor. You’ll also need the ability to let certain things go while enforcing others. But most importantly, you must try your best not to lose your cool.
While it is true that you cannot always reason with someone who has dementia, you can explain why something needs to be done in simple terms. Having a schedule can help you and the person you are caring for.
Try to keep things as normal as possible for your loved one by following their routine from before they developed the cognitive impairment.
Some days will be easy, and some will be harder than others, but if you stay positive, things should work out.
Create An Effective Caregiver Schedule And Stick To It
As a caregiver, the most important thing you can do is create a schedule and stick to it. This will help keep the person with dementia calm and happy.
Set up times when you’ll do certain activities together (such as going for walks, watching TV, or reading), then follow them each day.
This consistency will help reduce anxiety and make your loved one feel more comfortable in their environment.
Another way to make life easier for your loved one is by setting up routines and sticking to them whenever possible… Again, it’s all about routine and consistency.
This can include things like taking your loved ones outside at certain times of the day or making sure they eat their meals at the same time every day. Routines don’t have to be complicated — sometimes, simply getting dressed in the morning can be comforting for someone with dementia because it gives them something familiar to do each morning before starting their day.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in your responsibilities and forget about yourself as an effective caregiver. However, taking time for yourself is essential to recharge and enjoy the time you spend with your loved one.
If possible, take a few minutes during the day or evening to relax and unwind from the day’s activities – even if it’s just sitting down on the couch with a cup of tea or coffee while reading a book or magazine!
Everyone needs to feel safe and secure in their home. This includes people with dementia, who may wander away from home, become confused and disoriented, or forget how to use the stove or oven.
Keep all doors and windows locked, even when you’re at home, and leave the porch light on at night so your loved ones can find their way home if they wander off.
Install extra deadbolts on doors and motion detectors outside doors and windows that lead outside (you may also want to install security cameras).
If your loved one has trouble remembering how to use new appliances such as microwaves or dishwashers, make sure they are labeled with large stickers, so they’re easy for everyone to see.
Make sure that medications are locked up securely so children cannot get into them accidentally or intentionally take them out of spite (some medications look like candy).
Bathing and showering are essential parts of caregiving. Bathing can be difficult for many people with dementia because they do not know how to do it, and they may be scared of the water.
Here are some tips to help you:
- Ask if your loved one wants to take a bath or shower. If not, that is fine too!
- Make sure they are in a private room with no distractions like the television or radio.
- If they do not want to take a bath, try just wetting them down with warm water from a spray bottle or showerhead when they are in bed at night before tucking them in for the night (if possible). This can help reduce itching from dry skin and provide some comfort for your loved one who may feel cold at night due to their condition.
- If your loved one does want to take a bath, make sure it is done in stages so that they do not become overwhelmed and feel anxious about it. For example, start by wetting them down first with warm water from a spray bottle or showerhead before putting on any soap or shampoo so that they know what is coming.
Food and Beverage
Meals are essential for nutrition and hydration, but they can also help an effective caregiver feel like they are doing something to help the person with dementia.
As an effective caregiver, you will need to decide what the person with dementia can handle in food and drink. Some people with dementia have difficulty swallowing or chewing, while others may refuse certain foods or beverages.
If you are caring for someone with advanced Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, it is essential to follow these feeding guidelines:
- Allow plenty of time for meals. You should not rush through meals because this may cause choking.
- Limit liquids during meals (no drinks between bites). This will make it easier for your loved one to swallow foods without choking on fluid.
- Use utensils instead of fingers when feeding your loved one.
- Make sure that foods are soft enough to be easy to chew and swallow (e.g., mashed potatoes instead of steak).
Toileting is a significant concern for many families with dementia patients. If you are caring for someone with dementia, you may wonder how to best manage your loved one’s toileting needs.
Many people with dementia can take care of themselves and go to the bathroom independently. However, others need assistance with this activity.
The following tips can help effective caregivers handle their loved ones’ toileting needs:
- Ensure that you have enough time to help your loved one go to the bathroom. This means keeping an eye on them so that they don’t wander off on their own or get confused about where they need to go. It also means preparing ahead of time by bringing any necessary supplies (such as diapers) and wearing comfortable shoes so that you can easily walk around with them while they use the restroom.
- If possible, try using a toilet seat riser or elevated toilet seat so that your loved one doesn’t have trouble getting up from or sitting down on the toilet seat itself. This can make it easier for both of you because there will be less strain on muscles and joints in your legs and back when used correctly!
More General Tips
Effective caregivers are patient. The disease will progress at its own pace, and there’s no way to speed up the process. Though a person with dementia may become more forgetful and confused as time goes on, they will still enjoy hearing stories about the past and participating in favorite activities as much as ever.
Avoid arguing or pressuring someone with dementia into doing something that might cause confusion or stress.
Try saying things like, “You don’t want to go outside?” instead of “It’s cold outside; why would you go out?” And instead of saying, “What do you mean you don’t want eggs? You get eggs every morning!” say, “I’ll make pancakes instead.”
Be prepared for changes in behavior or personality traits typical for dementia. You might find that your loved one becomes more irritable as the disease progresses, but they might become more eager to please.
The death of the person you once knew is excruciating, especially if there is a long history.
You may feel sad, lonely, and angry. It’s okay to let those feelings out — they’re normal reactions to a traumatic event. But be careful not to take them out on your loved one or other family members who are also grieving their loss.
It can be hard to ask for help because you don’t want others to worry about how much time you spend with your loved one or think taking care of them is too much of an inconvenience.
But don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from friends and family members if you need help getting through the day or week, especially when caring for someone who lives alone.
The reality of someone suffering from a disease like dementia is that they will likely need a full-time effective caregiver to look after them.
But just because it is someone you love and care about does not mean it has to be all bad. Learning about these tips can help ease the burden and make the situation easier for all involved, especially those seeking care.Claudio Alegre is the CEO & Chief Content Writer for Angel Home Care Services on the Web and Patient and Family Advocate off the Web. He lives in Miami with his wife and 3 boys. He's passionate about healthcare and all things caregiving. He can be reached at [email protected] or directly at 305.220.4544
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