Guide To Caring For Someone With Dementia

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Caring for someone with dementia can be emotionally and physically exhausting. However, you can ease the load if you understand the disease and how to care for someone suffering from it. Here’s a detailed guide to caring for someone with dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a progressive disease that makes it hard for the sufferer to remember things and carry out tasks. It also affects decision-making ability, social skills, and language use. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimers Disease (AD), which accounts for 60% to 80% of all dementias. Other types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia (LBD), and frontotemporal dementia.

Who gets dementia?

One in every five people older than 65 will develop it, making it one of the most common diseases in the elderly. About half a million new cases are reported per year in the United States alone. An estimated 46.8 million people were affected by dementia worldwide in 2015. The number is expected to rise to 75.6 million by 2030 and 152.2 million by 2050.

The 7 stages of dementia

Stage 1: No cognitive decline.

Stage 2: Mild cognitive decline. Sufferers may find simple tasks difficult and require help with things they usually take care of themselves. For instance, they may forget to bathe, make breakfast, or run errands. However, these problems are more than compensated for by their ability to function in complex situations.

Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline. Sufferers may need help with most tasks. They will have trouble remembering what they did yesterday and be unable to complete familiar chores. Their ability to think logically is still intact, but they may not recognize familiar faces or objects.

Stage 4: Moderately severe cognitive decline. In this stage, sufferers become unable to perform complex tasks, like preparing a meal. They need help with most daily tasks, like taking medications or using the bathroom.

Stage 5: Severe cognitive decline. In this stage, sufferers require constant supervision in order to get through the day without serious injury or harm to themselves or others.

Stage 6: Very severe cognitive decline. You will start to see significant personality changes, as well as aggressive behavior. The person is extremely confused and needs help with everything.

Stage 7: Profound cognitive decline leading to coma or death. Profound confusion and disorientation, as well as uncontrollable aggression. It is nearly impossible to communicate with the sufferer at this stage.​

How to communicate effectively with a person with dementia

Always show your love and respect for the sufferer. Even if he or she is unable to respond, you must always treat them well. When communicating with someone suffering from dementia, try to keep these principles in mind:

  1. Show an interest in what the sufferer has to say. Don’t focus on what you want to say but let the sufferer talk. You will know your loved one needs care if his or her conversation with you is repetitive, constantly changing topics, or makes no sense whatsoever.
  2. Think before you speak so that your words have meaning and can be understood by the sufferer. Alzheimer’s disease patients typically hate having their decisions questioned or being told what to do, so avoid pressuring them into anything. Show a willingness to compromise and forgive small mistakes.
  3. Always use short sentences. It’s important not to overload the sufferer with too much information at once. For example, if he or she has asked for something, don’t tell them what you want to buy, just say “Ok” and give them the item. Likewise, if he or she is asking for something, don’t tell them a story about why they can’t have it; simply say “no.”
  4. Make eye contact when communicating with sufferers of Alzheimer’s. This helps them pay attention to what you are saying. Be patient, as it may take a longer time for the sufferer to respond to their name or another stimulus.
  5. Always speak slowly and clearly when speaking with dementia patients. Don’t use unfamiliar words, like medical terminology – limit your vocabulary to simple, well-known words.
  6. Be aware of your surroundings to avoid accidents when speaking with someone with dementia, especially at home. A cluttered and unfamiliar environment creates confusion. Try to put things in the same place you always have. The sufferer will feel more secure if their living space doesn’t change suddenly.

Consider assisted living

Dementia sufferers often need constant care and supervision, so if you feel that you cannot provide for them any longer, consider placing them in an assisted living home like Belmont Village Lincoln Park

Encourage independence wherever possible

This will help the sufferer to regain a sense of dignity, and it can keep them from becoming depressed. Finding tasks that they can do on their own is super important. They can be something as simple as folding laundry or putting away dishes.

Manage your own frustration

Your loved one may lash out or give up trying to communicate with you. Instead of getting frustrated, try to distract him or her and keep the conversation going so that he or she feels appreciated.

Be flexible

Give the patient plenty of freedom and try not to restrict his or her activities. This is very important for their well-being and mental health. At first, they may have trouble doing things independently, so offer your help until they become comfortable doing it on their own again. Let them make as many decisions as possible.

Create a safe environment

Make sure that the home is free of hazards and give your loved one plenty of independence. For example, clear slippery floors or put rugs down to help them walk around safely. Look out for electrical hazards and remove any dangerous objects like sharps or cleaning products. Keep the temperature comfortable to reduce your loved one’s risk of catching a cold or other infection.

Focus on individualized care

Your loved one is unique and you should treat him or her as such. Make sure that the type of care you are providing reflects this uniqueness. For example, a person who has trouble moving around may not be able to do things for themselves, but they can still help with cooking or household cleaning.

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