Caring for a relative who suffers from dementia poses significant challenges for the family. Alzheimer’s and other diseases related to cognitive decline or cognitive decline from simple aging is incurable. That being said, if you decide to become a caregiver for a loved one, you should be prepared to face difficulties along the way.
However, there are ways to make things better and you can start by improving your own communication skills. This will make the relationship with the patient more tolerable.
5 Difficulties you might struggle with along the way, and how to overcome them
1. Dealing with a bad mood
Body language and attitude communicate feelings and thoughts a lot stronger than actual words. It’s normal for patients struggling with dementia to get depressed every now and then.
As their caregiver, you have to be patient with them. Don’t get angry and try not to scream at them or lose your temper. Set up a positive, calm tone of voice and use your gestures to make them feel comfortable. Get their attention and limit noise and other distractions.
2. Communication issues
When caring for a patient with dementia, it’s normal to come across communication issues. At some point, your relative will start forgetting things, and as the condition advances, they may not remember your name and who you are. It’s very important to keep things simple and well-organized. Have pictures, paintings, or favorite possessions on display to make the patient feel safe and comfortable.
Your next step is to establish daily routines. Speak as calm as possible, stay calm and use simple words for your loved one to understand. If they misunderstand things, try not to argue with them and keep the tone of your voice down. Even if they don’t remember you, the fact that you’re calm will force their brain into believing everything is ok, and that they’re safe.
The greater the severity of the problem, the tougher it is for the caregiver to look after their loved one. In order to avoid accidents, it’s best to make your home a safer place to live in.
For example, in the bathroom, you can have grab bars installed. You can also place a shower bench and include a rubber carpet too to avoid complicated injuries from falls. Avoid telling your parent that they’re not trying enough or that they could do better. This will only discourage them, and you certainly don’t want that happening because it will affect their mood.
4. Dealing with boredom
It’s fundamental for a caregiver to understand that a patient struggling with dementia won’t be able to perform all the activities that they once performed. To them, life can get boring and empty, not to mention that depression might kick in as well.
In case of vision loss, they won’t be able to read anymore; and if they lose their mobility abilities, they won’t be able to move. The Caregiver should focus on providing auditory and visual stimulation. Find a way to make them happy and don’t bring to their attention that there’s something they can’t do. If they can’t see well, take them outside anyway to smell the fresh flowers and hear the birds sing.
If they can’t walk, turn to different types of activities such as playing games or reading. Whatever you do, make sure they feel valued and useful. This will keep them happy, entertained and engaged.
5. Confusion and anxiety
Last but not least, we have to emphasize that all patients with dementia struggle with confusion and anxiety. These are enhanced at night, so always make sure that they have the light on when they go to bed.
Furthermore, if they lose track of time or place, the first thing you need to do is remind them who they are and where they are. This will help them “return to reality” a lot faster. Once again, do it on a calm tone and if you notice that they’re saying incorrect things, change the subject. Find a way to build a pleasant dialogue; talk about interesting subjects and put a smile on their faces.