Written by Active Minds on Wednesday the 11th of May 2016.
When someone close to you has dementia it can have a considerable impact on their everyday life and on your own life too. Caring for someone with dementia is a big responsibility and one that should be done in conjunction with other forms of support that are available. If you are taking on a role as a primary care giver then there are a wealth of tips and strategies out there to help you manage your companion’s dementia. The key factor to recognise is that not all strategies will work for everyone who lives with dementia and there are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions. Being a care giver is about finding the most appropriate strategies for an individual and caring for their specific needs in the most effective way.
If the person you are caring for gets confused easily then do not bombard them with information and ask questions one at a time in language that is easily understandable. Complex, open-ended questions with many answers can confuse someone and cause frustration.
When you are working through an activity or task with someone, try to break it down into more manageable stages so that a person does not become overwhelmed by a task. You can use cues, gently assist them along the way and focus on one stage at a time.
Kind words can make a world of difference when caring for someone with dementia. If a person becomes confused or disorientated then trying to make them more relaxed using gentle words can help. Instead of telling them something that they are saying is not correct, try to reassure them that they are safe and validate their concerns by telling them that everything will be fine.
Creating scrap books with photos of family, friends and memorable places can be used as a tool to relax someone living with dementia and bring them familiarity. It is also useful to play music, read books and watch films that can prompt conversation about the past and help people living with dementia to express themselves. This is also a good distraction technique and can limit wandering and help with confusion.
Caring for someone with dementia can be physically, mentally and emotionally difficult. Getting support if you need it is really important and there are a range of places you can find it; such as social services, support workers, support groups, family and friends, helplines and online discussion forums.
If you are a care giver then most of your time will go on caring for your companion who lives with dementia, but it is crucial that you care for yourself too, as it can be an emotionally distressing task. Someone must always care for the care giver. Make time and space for yourself and look after your health.
Try to accommodate someone’s behaviour instead of trying to control it. You cannot change the fact that someone is living with dementia and the impact that will have on their thinking and behaviour. If they want to do something in a certain way, instead of telling them that they cannot, try to find the easiest and most comfortable way of making it happen.
Certain behaviours and ways of thinking such as anxiety and frustration can be triggered by certain activities, tasks or conversation. It is important that you look out for these triggers and try to anticipate what will cause certain behaviours. This will help you to manage their dementia better in the long-term.
It is important that you look for specific ways to help the person you know that is living with dementia and recognise that not every strategy works. It is also important to note that something that worked well on one day might not work the next day. You need to be constantly on the lookout for triggers and be prepared to make changes to the strategies you use.
It is difficult to be positive all the time but when you interact with someone who is living with dementia they will be able to pick up signals from your body language and tone of voice. If you use positive movements and speak respectfully and kindly, there is more of a chance that someone will respond to you in a similar way and feel more relaxed. Creating a relaxed environment is important and people will pick up on it.
Being a care giver is of vital importance and it is an incredibly demanding but rewarding job. The changing nature of dementia and of a person’s needs means that it is a role that is never the same. Seeking help when you need it and looking after yourself are ways of ensuring that you can give the best care possible.