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Caring for a Loved One with Dementia: 6 Practical Tips

Home Care Agency, Long Island:

Whether your loved has been newly diagnosed or has been afflicted with dementia for many years, there is one thing that remains the same; each day is unpredictable.  Family members often say, ‘what worked yesterday no longer works today’.  Dementia affects each individual differently and while there are many common symptoms and challenges experienced by those with this disease, they may come at different times and in different shapes and forms.  Some with dementia go through long periods of time without much change in their functional abilities while others have regular changes in their functioning making it very challenging for both the afflicted and their family members to manage their daily living activities at home.

While dementia brings with it many challenges and deficits for the person, it’s important to remember that many things stay intact well into the later stages of the disease; the ability to recognize and enjoy music, recall long-term memories, experience different feelings and emotions, enjoy the company of loved ones, or appreciate a walk outside.

Keeping your loved one with dementia safe and thriving at home allows them to continue to be in familiar surroundings and close to the people they love.  The following are practical tips to help you manage your caregiving role while minimizing the disorienting affects of dementia for your loved one.

  1. Create a daily routine. Maintain a routine schedule for meals, medications, personal hygiene, and other activities each day.  Structure is very key when it comes to managing the symptoms of dementia and helping the person to feel safe, secure, and comfortable at home.  It will also help to minimize anxiety and agitation that come from feeling disoriented and confused.
  2. Use music and art for anxiety. Music and art therapy have proven to be effective methods for coping with the behavioral symptoms of dementia such as, pacing, repetitive questions, sundowning (when a person with dementia experiences high anxiety and mood swings as the sun starts to set), or wandering, to name a few.  We always had a CD player with my grandmother’s favorite music ready to go in the kitchen for her sundowning times.
  3. Limit caffeine. Caffeine has been known to cause the jitters in most of us but if your loved one has dementia it could exacerbate his or her anxiety and restlessness.  Caffeine could also cause difficulty sleeping.  Switching to decaffeinated teas or coffee could save a lot of problems and your loved one will likely not notice the difference.
  4. Remember that behaviors are always triggered by something. Your loved one may be unable to articulate or recognize something that is causing pain or discomfort.  It could be something as minor as an itchy sweater to a more serious issue such as a urinary tract infection that is causing a sudden change such as, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, or other abnormal behaviors.
  5. Get respite care. It not only benefits you to get a break but also your loved one to get accustomed to different caretakers in case you get sick and are unable to provide the care yourself.   Choose an in-home dementia care provider that you can build a relationship with and have as your backup.
  6. Lighten the load. Try using home-based services to make it easier on you while accomplishing the same goals such as, delivered meals, delivered groceries, delivered prescriptions, a daily money manager to pay your loved one’s bills, and prepacked and sorted medications.