It’s estimated that about 50 million people live with dementia globally yet most of us don’t know much about the illness and how it affects patients. Dementia is a general term for illnesses that affect cognitive functions in older people such as Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia among others.
These types of illnesses are generally irreversible and incurable. Patients experience progressive memory loss which can undermine their quality of life. However, with early diagnosis and proper care, it’s manageable.
Here are some ways to care for someone with dementia.
1.Know What To Expect
If you volunteer to take care of someone with dementia, you need to know what you’re signing up for. It’s not an easy task since memory loss can have a bigger impact than you can imagine. For instance, patients can lose the ability to control their bowel movements. They may experience severe mood swings due to frustration and may lose their appetite. Having knowledge of the expected behavioral, emotional, and mental changes in a person living with dementia can help you respond better.
2. Communicate With Them Slowly
Communicating slowly doesn’t mean you treat them like a toddler or an illiterate person. Instead, try to have their full attention when addressing them. It also doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom whenever you talk to them. Keep your conversations positive. You can even share a joke or two. They will appreciate the humor and it will make them feel better. Using physical touch can help them feel more present and connected to you.
3. Stay Calm
Every now and then, you will experience frustration when caring for someone with dementia. It’s completely normal and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. However, learn how to manage your frustration by staying calm. Try to understand what the person you’re caring for is going through. If they find it difficult to carry out once-simple tasks, make it easier for them. For instance, if they can’t make a choice, give them options.
4. Help With Their Hygiene Needs
Dementia patients often forget to maintain their personal hygiene. This could, in turn, compromise their health and expose them to infections. During the pandemic, ensure that they wash their hands regularly and wear a mask when they leave the house. You can also help them maintain good hygiene by reminding them to do some basic things like brush their teeth, take a bath or wipe after using the toilet. Keep their beddings and clothes clean at all times.
5. Create A Safe Environment
As a caregiver, you have to be vigilant about safety in the home. Keep sharp objects, alcohol, medicine, and other things that can cause harm locked in a cabinet. Check for any tripping hazards such as rugs and electric cords. If possible, use surveillance cameras to monitor their movements and check if they’re in distress. Ensure that you have a first aid kit in the house in case of an injury.
6. Maintain Social Ties
People normally stop visiting their loved ones when they have dementia since they don’t understand the disease. Encourage other family members and friends to visit the patient if you notice they’re staying away. This will lift up the patient’s spirits and may help them recall some things. This could also take the load of caring for the person from you for a while. However, ensure that they know what subjects are off-limits and how to communicate with someone with dementia.
7. Give Them Proper Diet
Diet plays a key role in our cognitive functions. Research shows that a traditional diet could reduce the risk of suffering from dementia. It can also reverse pre-dementia. Similarly, adding brain-friendly foods in a dementia patient’s diet such as fatty fish, berries and nuts can prevent further decrease in their cognitive functions.
8. Reassure Them
There’s nothing much a person with dementia can do to change their condition. Therefore, they need your support to be able to adjust to their new lifestyle. Make sure you boost their confidence and reassure them that they’re still loved. Acknowledge their feelings and try to find ways to cheer them up. Don’t forget to care for yourself as well.