Caring for a loved one with dementia poses many challenges for family caregivers who may not understand the progression of the disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia is an umbrella term for a wide range of symptoms that interfere with daily functioning. Common symptoms include a decline in memory, causing increased forgetfulness.
Educating yourself about dementia and keeping a positive—but realistic—attitude allows you to maintain an element of control as a family caregiver.
To set you up for success, we explain how to care for a loved one with dementia, below.
1. Show Empathy
Imagine how you would feel if you woke up one day to find yourself in an unfamiliar place, not sure of the day, time or year. This—among many other situations— is a daily struggle for those suffering from dementia.
Care starts with compassion. As you embark on this journey, show empathy. While not everyone will experience the same symptoms, there’s a similar trajectory that most people follow as the disease progresses.
From time to time, your loved one may forget prominent pieces of information that affect his or her daily life. They may not be able to identify who, what or where they are.
Remember, this change is not being caused by any intentional acts, so treat them how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed.
Showing empathy can go a long way in understanding one another.
2. Be Realistic
Although easier said than done, be realistic about what constitutes success during your care journey.
Success is helping to assure that your loved one is as comfortable as possible while under your care. There will be good days and bad days. Most types of dementia are irreversible, so remember to keep your attention on the things you can control.
By establishing a daily or weekly schedule, you and your loved one can ensure you’re on the same page from the start. Plus, this helps to eliminate confusion and frustration for both parties.
3. Accept Support
While your loved one relies on you for comfort and care, family caregivers need support, too. It can be difficult to accept support at first, but caregivers who have received help often wish they’d done it sooner.
A weekly or monthly check-in with close family members and friends can help you divvy up responsibilities—like picking up a prescription or attending an appointment. You can also look into services like in-home health care to help you with daily activities like bathing, dressing and grooming.
Additionally, joining a caregiver support group is a great way to connect with others who truly understand what you’re going through. Groups that focus on a particular disease like dementia are extremely helpful, as members can exchange practical information on caregiver challenges and offer possible coping strategies and solutions.
4. Plan for the Future
While no cure is currently available for dementia, early diagnosis can help individuals and their families better prepare for the future.
If you serve as your loved one’s primary caregiver, he or she may name you as their healthcare power of attorney. If named, it’s your responsibility to communicate your loved one’s healthcare wishes, so take time to fill out an advance directive with him or her.
This is a legal document in which your loved one specifies comprehensive guidance for end-of-life care. A living will can also supplement an advance directive, outlining basic information about his or her assets.
While difficult to discuss, it’s important to have these conversations with your loved one. It can give you and your family peace of mind, knowing everything is accounted for.
Get Access to More Caregiver Resources
No matter how you begin your caregiving journey, it’s important to have resources to turn to in time of need. That’s why we created The Comprehensive Guide for First-Time Family Caregivers—to help you provide the highest quality of comfort and care for your loved one.