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Caring for someone with dementia

belvedere fb main 071618.jpgCaring for a loved one with dementia means playing a lot of roles and being on duty 24/7.

Here are some of the challenges commonly faced by caregivers and some quick tips on coping day to day. Full books have been written on most of these topics, but we hope this can help you recognize symptoms and get a head start on their management.

Confusion

Confusion about time, place or even the identities of known persons is a common symptom of dementia. Dementia patients may travel back in time to their childhoods, or insist they are at – or need to go back to – a former home. It's a complicated issue for caregivers, but the overall advice of experts is to join the person in their world rather than trying to force them back into reality.

Ask open-ended questions about the people and places they mention. Don’t be afraid to “fib” a little to keep them happy where they are – for example, don’t insist their old house belongs to other people, suggest that you can’t make the trip today because of bad weather or road work.

Trying to make them snap back to the present place and time can cause greater confusion, anger, fear or even aggression. Help them stay calm and happy by validating their thoughts, memories and “reality.”

Aggression

It can be hurtful when a loved one is angry or aggressive toward a caregiver. It’s important to remember that they are not trying to hurt you; they are just fearful and confused.

If you are safe, try to identify the cause of aggression and soothe the person by shifting their focus or manipulating the situation to their satisfaction. If they are angry that something is “missing,” it’s OK to “remind” them that it is out being repaired and will be returned, for example. Why can’t they drive? Because their car is in the shop and will be back in a few days.

Of course, it's important to rule out pain or illness if aggression is entirely out of character for your loved one or is a new symptom. An injury or an infection, such as a UTI, can make dementia patients hostile and belligerent.

The most important thing is to mitigate aggression for the safety of the patient and everyone around them.

Finances

One of the first signs of dementia is an inability to manage finances: bills go unpaid, money is handed out freely to anyone who “needs” it and accounts are overdrawn. But taking over finances can be tricky.

Assure the loved one that you are merely helping out and that they are still the boss of their money. Offer to help them organize their finances rather than manage them. Explore what you need to do legally to limit access to accounts and funds if required.

A certified financial planner, accountant or daily money manager can help your loved one feel confident that their matters are handled competently and professionally. They will be able to help you assess the current finances and project what will be needed to sustain your loved one's needs over time.

Wandering

A wandering loved one is one of the greatest fears for caregivers. It’s not uncommon to hear a silver alert on the news, and they can end with tragic results.

People with dementia may wander simply because they get confused and can't find their way back home. Or they may have some goal in mind or think they are needed elsewhere – at work, to pick up their children, etc.

If you have concerns about a loved one with dementia wandering, it's vital to both safeguard against their ability to leave the home and to make sure they can be identified and you can be contacted should they become disoriented and lose their way.

There are many inexpensive security alarms and cameras that can be placed at doors and windows in addition to standard locks. Many of them will deliver alerts and images directly to a smartphone.

Make sure your loved one has tags with identifying and contact information sewn into all of their clothing, including underwear, robes and pajamas.

Diet and Nutrition

Those with dementia are vulnerable to dehydration and malnutrition. People with dementia often forget to drink or eat. They may also be on medication that makes eating or drinking less appealing or that changes the flavor of foods. Conditions can worsen as they are exacerbated by poor nutrition.

Establish a schedule that may appeal to your loved one, such as eating during the same TV programs every day. Try serving five or six small meals throughout the day with healthy finger foods. Consider adding smoothies to their diet routine for added fruit and vegetable servings.

Respite

It's essential for those who are caregivers for a loved one with dementia to have reliable and regular respite. Caring for someone with dementia is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. One person cannot bear all of the responsibility.

If you need assistance providing care for a loved one with dementia, Belvedere Home Care can help. We offer 24-hour care, meal prep, personal care and companionship. Our staff is trained in helping those with dementia and cognitive disorders live healthier, happier lives in the familiar comfort of home.

For more information, contact us at (518) 694-9400 Option 4 or info@belvedereservices.com.