Did you know that as per the World health organization, nearly 50 million people in the world have dementia?
Care can also be all-encompassing. As your loved one’s cognitive, functional, and physical abilities gradually decline over time, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, disgusted, and neglect your health and well-being. The burden of care can increase the risk of serious health complications, and many dementia caregivers experience depression, stress, or even exhaustion. Finding help and support during this process is not a luxury; it is a necessity.
For this purpose, below are tips for dementia caregivers to help ease their responsibilities:
1. Engage the patients in activities to keep them active
Consider the various activities a person can do to stay active, such as housework, cooking and baking, exercise, and gardening. Assign the activity as per the patient’s ability. Help start a business or get involved to make the activity more fun. People with dementia may lack interest and may have difficulty getting started. However, if the planning is done by others, they can participate.
Add music to exercises or activities if it’s motivating. Dance to the music if possible. Be realistic about the number of activities you can do at one time. A few short “mini-trainings” may be best. Shop for a variety of healthy foods, but consider easy-to-prepare meals such as pre-cooked salads and servings. Take a walk together every day. Exercise is also good for caregivers!
Take steps to slow the development of symptoms. You need to take care of their physical and mental health. Although treatment is available for some symptoms, lifestyle changes can also be effective weapons for slowing the progression of the disease. Exercise, eating and sleeping well, managing stress, and mental and social activities are steps that can improve brain health and slow down the deterioration process. Making healthy lifestyle changes with your loved one can also help protect your health.
2. Let your loved ones feel independent
Studies show that avoiding smoking can reduce the risk of dementia as well. (Source: WHO). So just keep an eye on any such actions that they are involved in to avoid any further mishaps along the way.
3. Ensure that their environment provides the right balance of stimulation
Lighting: Provides opportunities for easy access to daylight. In the evening, a few hours before normal sleep time, use table lamps with warm light. Respect the need for darkness at night. If necessary, use only an amber night light.
Use of color: As per Research Gate, people with dementia benefit from strong color contrasts. For example, a table should have different colored tablecloths and plates. Busy patterns and dark lines or spots on the floor can be confusing and even cause falls. What does the loved one react to? Customize the environment to their preferences.
4. Help them with short term memory loss issues
In the early stages of dementia, your loved one may need tips or reminders to help him remember appointments, memorize words or names, track medications, or manage accounts and money. If you want to help your loved ones maintain their independence, instead of simply taking care of every task, try to work together as a partnership.
Have your loved one indicate when they want help, such as memorizing a word or approve to check their calculations before paying any bills. Encourage them to use a notepad or smartphone to create reminders to keep them handy.
5. Try to keep the conversations as simple as possible
This may seem obvious, but many care partners ask open-ended questions like “what would you like to eat for lunch today?” This question may seem easy to answer, but for someone living with dementia, it can be overwhelming. A person with dementia can lose the ability to combine information into clear ideas and answers. It is best to ask questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
24% of people identify that dementia cases are caused by brain disease or degeneration. (Source: YouGov polling for Alzheimer’s Research UK 24th – 25th February 2016)
6. In case you need to go to the hospital…
An emergency bag with the following items, pre-packaged, can make an emergency visit easier:
- Health insurance cards, lists of current health conditions, medications and allergies, names and telephone numbers of healthcare professionals, copies of pre-issued health care guidelines (documents that express the patient’s wishes for end-of-life care)
- “Personal data sheet” indicating the preferred name and language of the person; contact information for key family and friends; the need for glasses, dentures, or hearing aids; disturbing behavior; how the person communicates needs and expresses emotions; and life situations, snacks and water bottles, Incontinence briefs, if worn, wet wipes and plastic bags.
- Comfortable stuff or music player with headphones. Clothes, toiletries, and personal medications for yourself, painkillers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin – the journey to the emergency room may take longer than you think, and stress can lead to headaches or other symptoms. Paper and pen for writing information. Also, carry a small amount of cash.
By always focusing so diligently on the needs of your loved one when developing dementia, it is very easy to fall into the ploy of neglecting your own well-being. If you do not receive the physical and emotional support you need, you will not be able to offer the best care, and you are more likely to feel overwhelmed and exhausted.
Plan your treatment. See your doctor regularly and pay attention to the signs and symptoms of excessive stress. It’s easy to leave people and activities that you love when you’re worried about care, but you risk your health and peace. Take time away from caring and maintain friendships, social contacts, and professional networks, and pursue hobbies and interests that bring you joy.