(RxWiki News) Adult children and other relatives often care for family members with dementia. This endeavor brings unique challenges, but help is available.
Organizations like the Alzheimer's Association provide plenty of resources and helpful information for those who are caring for a loved one who has dementia. For some basic dementia care tips, read on.
The Early Stages
Those who have recently been diagnosed with dementia may not require much daily assistance at all. At this stage, patients may be able to drive, work and attend social functions.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, many care partners find themselves unsure of how much assistance to give to those in the early stages of dementia. Some patients may be in denial about their diagnosis, while others may experience fear and anxiety. At this stage, your job is to help your loved one find a new balance while staying safe.
To accomplish this goal, you may want to do the following:
- Encourage your loved one to exercise safely, eat well, and see friends and family members.
- Help him or her avoid stressful or potentially confusing situations.
- Facilitate a consistent daily routine.
- Join a support group that includes both you and your loved one. (The Alzheimer's Association offers groups like this.)
- Reach out to a qualified health care provider for advice on care and your next steps.
Although every case is unique, the middle stage is typically the longest phase of dementia. It can last for years, according to the Alzheimer's Association. During this time, your loved one may begin to have trouble expressing himself or herself or completing everyday tasks.
You may also notice behavioral changes — some of which can be alarming or stressful for caregivers. Dealing with these symptoms will require patience and flexibility. You will likely need to attend to your loved one's daily hygiene needs, and you will need to drive him or her to appointments. Symptoms are usually too severe during this stage for the patient to drive safely.
Those in the middle stages of dementia may begin wandering off, so it will be important for you to maintain your loved one's safety. If your loved one is living alone at this point, it may be time to consider having him or her move in with relatives or into residential care.
Always maintain a calm demeanor, and try to involve your loved one in meaningful or enjoyable activities. These activities may include cooking, playing a musical instrument or gardening, for example.
Someone in the later stages of dementia will require full-time care, and this period can last for several weeks to several years. If you are caring for your loved one at home, his or her needs may exceed your abilities. Ask a trusted health care provider for advice about your care options.
Those with advanced dementia may have trouble swallowing, walking and using the bathroom without assistance, and they may be vulnerable to certain infections.
Your role during this time will likely focus on preserving your loved one's dignity and quality of life in any way possible. During this stage, the Alzheimer's Association recommends looking at old photos together, sitting outside together on a nice day, playing a favorite song or album for your loved one, and brushing his or her hair.
Caring for someone who is living with dementia can be a challenge at any stage. That's why it's important to reach out to a health care provider for advice and access to helpful resources. You may also call the Alzheimer's Association's 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900.