Working with a Loved One Who Has Dementia

Dementia is a debilitating disease, which can cause memory loss, confusion, distress and an inability to perform daily tasks. While the disease poses difficult and stressful challenges for patient and caregiver alike, there are ways to help make your loved one feel safe and maintain their dignity. Here, the caregiving professionals at Avila Homecare describe best practices for working with loved ones who have dementia.

Creating a Comfortable Atmosphere

Dementia often causes feelings of distress, confusion, anger, paranoia and fear. But, these feelings can be mitigated by creating a comfortable atmosphere. This should be all encompassing, including physical environment, daily routine and personal communication and interaction. To achieve this, you may consider speaking to loved ones with dementia in soft, soothing tones, and keeping sentences short and clear to improve understanding. Be sure to maintain warm, open body language and work to truly listen when they speak. Try to avoid questions that require short term memory—something those with dementia struggle with—and ask instead about events in the distant past, which most with dementia can remember quite clearly.

In terms of a senior’s physical environment, keep the home atmosphere quiet, clutter free, and calm: playing soothing music and keeping rooms well-lit can prevent feelings of fear and paranoia. Base daily routines off former routines: this will maintain a sense of familiarity and comfort in your loved one, as change can be distressing to those with dementia.

Handling Difficult Behavior

Many difficult behaviors associated with dementia, including incontinence, repetitive speech, angry outbursts and wandering, stem from a difficulty remembering important information, or a triggering event. Dealing with these negative behaviors should be done in a twofold manner: by avoiding triggers, and repeating information and routines consistently. Gently remind your loved one to take bathroom breaks, drink water and eat their meals. Break tasks into smaller steps, and give them time to reflect on what they need to do, as well as respond. Validate your loved one’s feelings, listen to their concerns, and then try to redirect your loved one’s attention to an activity they enjoy.

Track moments throughout the day that lead to outbursts of anger or distress, and try to avoid these situations in the future. Physical activity and proper nutrition can go a long way to minimizing the negative effects of difficult behaviors. Consider implementing daily walks around the neighborhood, and a well-balanced diet that avoids soda, sweets, and processed carbohydrates. The most important strategy in working with your loved one is practicing patience and understanding. As dementia can radically change the personality and disposition of a patient, it is essential that you persevere through the challenging times.

Getting Outside Help

Dementia is a pernicious disease, and while these tips can help mitigate symptoms, all caregivers need assistance at times. Trained, professional caregivers can improve your loved one’s quality of life, help you manage the stresses of caring for one with dementia, and provide an alternate support system. The caregivers at Avila Home Care are trained to provide the love and care that your loved one with dementia needs. Together, we can help them live out their lives in dignity and peace. For more information, we urge you to contact us today.

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Marthalyn Kwenah is Avila’s Caregiver of the Month for March, 2021! Marthalyn has been a caregiver with Avila since June 2018. She is a delight to talk to, and is always willing to help in whatever way she can. The compassion and kindness she shows her clients is surpassed only by her joy-filled spirit. Congratulations Marthalyn!

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