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Supporting Your Loved One Through Dementia

Written by Dr. Group, DC Founder
elderly coupleFormer first lady, Rosalynn Carter has said, "There are only four kinds of people in this world: Those who have been caregivers; Those who are currently caregivers; Those who will be caregivers; and Those who will need caregivers." In the United States, and all over the world, many people are, or need, caregivers. In my opinion, caregivers should be given tremendous accolades for the work they do, but, unfortunately, caregivers are not always paid, experienced professionals. In fact, many times, the duties of caring for an elderly parent or grandparent will fall into the hands of a family member. There are different reasons this happens but the prohibitive cost of private nursing care is a big contributing factor for most. Often times, becoming a caregiver can also be a financial setback. It's not a high paying job and many family caregivers have had to give up their careers to become caregivers for a family member. Finances are not the only potential stressor for caregivers, there is a human element in these situations that is so important and must be acknowledged. When you're a caregiver, someone else may be relying on you for their everything. While rewarding, that can be a heavy burden to bear. And when you're caregiving for an elderly parent, or other close relative, and that person is suffering from Alzheimer's disease or dementia, things can get very overwhelming very quickly. This isn't a subject we touch on often but it is an important topic that needs to be recognized. The article below, "Supporting Your Loved One Through Dementia" is a guest article contributed by Nisha Sharma with MHA Housing and Care for Older People. I hope you'll find it informative and if you, or someone you know, has experience as a caregiver, please weigh in and leave us a comment below.

Supporting Your Loved One Through Dementia

Dementia is a disease that can bring about vast change to the life of the sufferer and in the lives of the people carrying for them. If your loved one has dementia, you may feel at a loss. Dementia changes lives forever, and if you want to support your loved one, there are several things for you to keep in mind.

Use Body Language and Voice Tone to Aid In Communication

Just because someone has dementia does not mean that they have lost their ability to read body language. Before you go to interact with someone with dementia, take a deep breath and try to put yourself in a good mood. If you can show them that you are happy to see them and that you are having a good time, it can make things much easier.

Accommodate Harmless Behaviors

If at all possible; accommodate the person's behaviors rather than halting them. There is likely a reason that the person wants to do something, even if it does not quite make sense to you. For example, if they want to sleep in the living room instead of the bedroom, make sure that the couch is comfortable or that you can inflate an air mattress for the floor.

Be Patient

A person with dementia will repeat themselves, and they will ask for information that was given to them fifteen minutes ago. The mechanism of dementia means that things that happened thirty years ago might be very clear, while the things that have happened just half an hour ago might seem impossibly distant. This can get frustrating to deal with, but it is simply part of the way this disorder works. Simply be patient with them.

Call In Reinforcements

Being a caregiver for someone with dementia can be very difficult. The issue is that the more frustrated you get, the lower the quality of care that you are going to be able to give. If you find yourself getting frustrated too often, and if you find that it is harder for you to be as caring and as observant as you have been, ask for help. You can look to other family members, to community organizations dedicated to alleviating pressures in elder care and more.

Be Willing to Adapt

One of the most frustrating and tiring things about dealing with someone with dementia is that what works today might not work tomorrow. Something that elicits a good response one day may result in a break down or a simple lack of interest the next. The thing to remember is that you have to keep trying. If one thing doesn't work, try something else. It is only a matter of time before something does.

Remember That Purpose Exists

If someone with dementia keeps trying to do something, it is a given that there is a purpose to what they are trying to do. It might look nonsensical or backwards to you, but take a moment to consider what they are doing and why they might be doing it. This can give you a clue towards helping them accomplish their needs and helping them calm down. If you are someone who is caring for someone with dementia, make sure that you consider what is going on and how you can best proceed.

About the Author

This article was written by Nisha Sharma BA, MA. She represents MHA Housing and Care for Older People, located in the United Kingdom. She enjoys writing about elderly health and dementia care. She's been writing about dementia for the last few years and loves to offer advice about elderly health and care homes.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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