Dementia can be life-changing, especially when somebody you love is diagnosed with the condition. That’s because it impacts every aspect of a person’s ecosystem, particularly their caregivers. Dementia isn’t a single illness but an umbrella term used for a range of specific sub-conditions such as Lewy Body dementia and Alzheimer’s, among other conditions. Although it can manifest in a wide range of symptoms, one of the general markers for a person with dementia is the gradual decline in memory, language, or problem-solving abilities, which impairs their independent functioning.
According to statistics, more than 16 million people in America serve as voluntary caregivers for individuals with Alzheimer's illness or other types of dementia. These family members and close friends usually face the normal stresses that come with the caregiving role along with other unique challenges. Read on to discover the fundamentals for caring for a person with dementia and how you can succeed at the role as well.
1. Communicate effectively
Keeping a patient, open, and flexible line of communication is extremely crucial when dealing with a dementia patient. Most of the time, dementia is characterized by language deficits. People with dementia have difficulties processing huge amounts of information at a go and also have language or word-finding comprehension problems. To effectively communicate with them, you should try and break up ideas and sentences into shorter, simpler forms and give one instruction at a time. Also, slow your pace of speech and utilize gestures and eye contact to get your message across.
2. Empathize with the patient’s situation
Although acquiring dementia can be a big change in the life of your loved one, it does not change their identity. They remain mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents. Jayne Byrne, Project Coordinator at a nursing home in Kildare comments that “As a dementia caregiver, you should emphasize that that condition doesn’t define them, but it’s a new addition to their life. You can help and encourage them to engage in various activities and hobbies that bring out their strengths, skills, and interests they possess to reinstate their primary purpose in life.”
3. Look for support
Caregiving can be a demanding role, and there will be moments when you need somebody to talk to or to give you a hand. There are many support groups out there not only for dementia patients but also for caregivers who are willing to share their stories, struggles, resources, and also provide a safe place to talk it out. Support groups can play a significant role in educating other care partners about the condition and also help clear up any assumptions or myths associated with dementia.
4. Be a practical caregiver
Many dementia caregivers experienced bad and good days with their patients. You should try to foster the good moments and the good days for the patient without putting pressure on their daily lives. Most diagnoses of dementia are irreversible, worsen with time, and have no cure yet. As a result, you should be very realistic, especially when it comes to what constitutes success as the disease progresses. A successful dementia caregiver should be able to ensure that the patient is as comfortable, as safe and content with their day-to-day life as possible.
5. Make plans for the future
According to a recent study by the Alzheimer's Association, people with dementia live for around four to eight years on average after diagnosis, but some normally live as long as twenty years. As dementia progresses, you might need more caregiving assistance, so it's advisable to start thinking long term. That means that caregivers should be prepared for the time their loved one will require professional attention in hospice care or nursing home. Planning for the future will involve identifying the most suitable care options within your locality and financial planning as well.
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