Caring for someone with dementia is one of the most challenging things you might have to do. It can be heartbreaking if the person who is ill is a close friend or family member.
Giving that badly needed care is one of the most generous things anyone can do.
Even so, whether you care for someone at home or in a senior care facility, you must not allow this role to become so complicated, depressing, or consuming that you stop caring for yourself.
We’ll offer additional words of wisdom about this in the following paragraphs.
Caring for Someone With Dementia: Creating a Safe Environment
Creating a safe environment has at least two directions: emotional safety and physical safety. In the early stages of dementia, you are both coming to terms with the disease’s reality and its manifestations.
During this time, both of you are discovering that things like memory and cognition are changing. As your loved one becomes more ill, you’ll mourn the gradual loss of the person you once knew.
But you’ll also become more practical, organized, and prepared for what lies ahead if you’re caring for someone with dementia at home.
As the illness worsens, your loved one will become more confused and more dependent on you. Be prepared for the fact that your loved one’s frustration might make them angry, demanding, rebellious, or other unfamiliar and possibly unkind behaviors.
A safe physical environment also means taking steps to prevent injury or property damage. A dementia patient should not use the stove or other kitchen appliances unaccompanied. Nor should they bathe or shower without assistance.
We recommend removing any tripping hazards from the floor, installing locks and latches to prevent access to potential dangers. Also, consider adopting home fixtures and furniture to accommodate your loved one’s new needs.
How to Care for Someone With Dementia: Flexibility and Focus on the Individual
Your loved one’s personality and abilities will change as the illness progresses. The best way for you to handle these changes is to cherish your memories of the person they used to be and accept them as the person they have become.
Both of you will be happier if you adopt a “go with the flow” attitude. Try to stick with a schedule, but if your loved one changes their mind and wants a different food or activity, try to accommodate the new choice.
And be understanding of the mood swings that come as they grow more frustrated and depressed.
Caring for Yourself: Building a Support Community
We end with this item to bring the focus back to you, the caregiver, and the support you need. It would help if you took time away from your caregiver duties for self-care—whether that means:
- Going for a routine medical check-up
- Working out at the gym
- Going shopping for yourself
- Seeing a movie with friends
- Or anything else that gives you relief and personal pleasure
Consider using adult daycare while you’re out. Many facilities accept dementia patients.
Or ask a friend or relative to help out. As you continue to ask for people’s help, you’ll find that, increasingly, they will volunteer it.
Along with the people who will assist you—friends, family, support groups, and professional caregivers—read about caring for dementia patients. We recommend this guide, written specifically for dementia caregivers.
Enjoy the Time
No matter how stressful or saddening you find caring for someone with dementia, it’s also a time you will later cherish. After all, you are the person who will have allowed them to live their last years or months to the fullest.
Keep reading our website for more informative articles like this one. There’s always something new to learn.
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