Dementia caregiving for the elderly is a profound and compassionate journey that demands unwavering dedication and empathy. As our global population ages, the prevalence of dementia continues to rise, making caregiving an increasingly vital aspect of healthcare and family dynamics.
Dementia, a syndrome characterized by cognitive decline and behavioral changes, poses significant challenges to those afflicted and their caregivers.
This introduction explores the multifaceted role of dementia caregivers, highlighting the physical, emotional, and psychological demands they face and the importance of support networks and resources to ensure the well-being of caregivers and their loved ones.
To shed some light on the same, we interviewed a home care industry expert to bring her perspective on caring for a senior with dementia.
Let’s get started with knowing what our expert thinks about supporting and protecting the elderly with dementia.
Caregivers can start by learning as much about dementia as they can. Knowledge is power. It is a very hard journey to travel if a caregiver does not know about the disease and its progression, how to communicate and interact with someone living with dementia, and so forth. Learn your local and national resources through an aging and disability resource center or other aging centers.
Those living with dementia can choose to eat healthier, socialize more, and have more activities to help them slow down the progression of dementia. Having a healthy heart and brain coincide. If they can walk during the day, eat healthy, and avoid excess caffeine, smoking, and alcohol, this will keep them on the right track.
Communicating with a person living with dementia is different than we would with someone living without the disease. Make sure conversations are in a quiet area with little to no distractions. A person with dementia may not recall factual events or information. It is ok to go to their reality. Never argue with someone living with dementia.
Suppose a person with dementia had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and the family knows this, but the person with dementia does not remember. In that case, it is ok to not make a big deal out of this or constantly say – well, don’t you remember? Or how do you not remember? The doctor changed your meds and ran these tests, etc. It is best to go with the flow and let it roll off your shoulders- you know they had a doctor’s appointment, and the results are all that matters. It is more detrimental for the person with dementia to be reminded of something they cannot recall or process. It is also important to give someone with dementia time to process and respond. This can take 20-40 seconds.
Offer choices: Would you like soup, a sandwich, or a red or black T-shirt? Break tasks into small steps. For example, if you want John to put his shoes on, go to the restroom, and brush his teeth, ask John to do one step at a time, and once he completes one, give him the next task.
It is very important to make sure a loved one’s home is safe for them. Start by decluttering the home (removing extra cords, rugs, tight spaces, tripping hazards, and more). Place important contact information near the phone (emergency contacts, 9-1-1, family and friends).
Have handrails installed in the restroom, in the shower, near the toilet, in hallways if needed, the non-slip floor in and outside of the shower? If an individual is concerned with the stove or oven, you can unplug the appliance or get safety covers to go on knobs. Cameras can be helpful in the house if there is a concern of wandering, but GPS tracking devices are available in all types (wearable – wrist or in shoes, plugs for the car, keychains for the purse or keys, cards for in the wallet, etc.).
Seek help as soon as possible; don’t wait! So many caregivers wait to seek help until they are stressed beyond belief and when their care recipient is in crisis mode. It is better to get involved in support groups, memory cafes, senior living, activities in the community, etc., as soon as possible to get the resources, support, and respite you need! This will help you maintain your sanity and feel less alone on this journey so many of us are on!
Dementia caregiving for the elderly is a complex and emotionally demanding endeavor that necessitates profound compassion and resilience. As we navigate the aging population and its associated challenges, it is imperative to recognize the vital role of caregivers in preserving the dignity and quality of life for those affected by dementia. The tireless dedication of these caregivers often goes unnoticed, yet their contributions are immeasurable.
As we move forward, society must prioritize support systems, education, and resources to alleviate the burdens placed on caregivers and promote the well-being of those with dementia and those who tirelessly care for them. In doing so, we can strive to ensure that every older adult with dementia receives the compassion and care they deserve.
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