THIS POST WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN 2018 BUT WAS UPDATED ON 6/22/2021
Looking after a dementia patient can be quite a challenge for caregivers, especially those who are new at this job.
Often, they will throw their hands up in frustration or feel like giving up when things get out of control. However, by learning and planning, you can make your caregiving journey quite a successful and peaceful one.
Here are some tips for new dementia caregivers that will make all the difference to their caregiving journey.
YOUR QUESTIONS SHOULD BE SHORT & TO THE POINT
It is not uncommon for dementia patients to get confused, irritated, and frustrated easily. If you bombard them with questions one after another, chances are that they’ll feel baffled and overwhelmed and might even end up throwing a tantrum.
It is best if you asked one question at a time and at a slow pace to prevent any problems. As a caregiver, you also need to exercise patience and converse with your patients at a pace they’re comfortable with.
It is better to ask questions that require simple yes and no answers.
Or you can ask questions with the help of visual cues and prompts, making it easier for them to understand and answer.
BREAK ACTIVITIES INTO SIMPLE STEPS
Doing everyday tasks and participating in common activities like setting the dinner table can become a challenge for people with dementia. Especially for senior patients, remembering how to do routine tasks can often result in frustration and confusion.
As a caregiver, you can help them manage these tasks with ease by breaking them into a series of steps that can be performed one by one.
You can offer them your assistance and encourage them to complete specific tasks or perhaps, give them gentle reminders if they are unable to accomplish an assigned job on their own.
You can also give them visual cues with the help of hand gestures.
BE AFFECTIONATE & REASSURING
Living with dementia and having to look after someone with dementia are undoubtedly two equally challenging jobs. However, with a little affection and reassurance from your end, things can become easier.
Dementia patients can often lose touch with reality which can result in feelings of extreme confusion, isolation, and dismay. They may even struggle to recall incidents that never happened or may forget things that occurred in their lives recently.
In such situations, instead of disregarding their feelings or telling them that they are wrong, offer them reassurance, comfort, and support. Be responsive and show them, through physical or verbal expressions, that you are listening.
If need be, hold their hand or hug them because physical contact can greatly improve your relationship with your patient.
TAKE CARE OF THEIR DIET
Providing proper nutrition to dementia patients can be quite a stressful job for caregivers because dementia can often lead to poor appetite and a loss of interest in food.
Patients can also forget to eat altogether or eat again and again. These factors can make mealtimes very challenging for both the patient and caregiver.
As a caregiver, you can follow these guidelines to get accustomed to such eating transitions. You should try to keep mealtimes as comfortable and straightforward as possible. Don’t present your patient with a lot of food options because that can overwhelm them.
Use simple crockery and tableware and ensure that accessories like tablecloths and mats are a single color without any busy patterns.
Also, make sure to incorporate all the essential nutrients and minerals and brain-boosting foods in their diet to keep them physically and mentally fit.
Be prepared for unexpected outbursts
Dementia patients can exhibit some behavioral changes that can be very challenging for caregivers. These changes may include being aggressive, throwing tantrums, lashing out, hitting, pushing, or even self-harming behaviors like pulling one’s hair.
There are several methods you can adopt as a caregiver to reduce the intensity of such episodes and help your patient calm down. Ideally, you should try to explore what’s causing such changes in behavior and whether or not the patient is experiencing any physical pain.
The causes can also include changes in the environment, for instance, loud noises, new objects or unfamiliar faces. More often than not, the anger and aggression can be subsided by identifying the causal factors. However, in extreme and uncontrollable cases, you should call for help.
Accept help and support
There will be times when you, as a caregiver, will feel helpless and overwhelmed and will need a break. Experiencing such feelings is entirely normal because you cannot do everything on your own.
Sometimes you will require extra help and support to prevent burnout and to feel in control. In such instances, it’s ok to accept help and assistance from other people and divide jobs or responsibilities. Only when you’re taken care of will you be able to look after another person.
Set a positive environment
The last thing dementia patients and caregivers need in their lives is negativity, which is why caregivers should strive towards making the environment positive and happy. By doing this, you will not only make your job easier but also reinforce the patient’s well-being.
Research shows that dementia patients are increasingly prone to stress and anxiety, and they can become super sensitive to their surroundings.
You should try to foster feelings of positivity and optimism by decorating the house with soothing colors or playing soft music for relaxation. This also includes adopting a positive mood and body language because these two factors can strongly give away your feelings.
It is absolutely crucial that you seek guidance and advice before starting your caregiving journey. Doing your homework beforehand will give you a direction, and you will know exactly how to deal with, and respond to the various situations that come with taking care of a dementia patient.
ABOUT Erica Silva
Erica Silva is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs.
Find her on Twitter:@ericadsilva1