The experts at Emeritus understand how difficult it is caring for a loved one who is suffering from dementia. About 4 to 5 million people in the United States have some degree of dementia. As one of the largest memory care providers in the country, Emeritus Senior Living strives to help the elderly and their family members deal effectively with the symptoms so that the person with dementia is still able to live a life of joy and purpose. . Although it caring for someone who is suffering from this condition can be challenging, it is important to stay patient, keep an open heart, and remember that the person you love and care about still exists underneath the symptoms.
Dementia is a word used to describe the symptoms of many diseases and processes. Dementia itself is not a specific disease but a collection of symptoms, which can include:
- Memory loss, particularly short-term memory
- Loss of reasoning or the ability to understand why and how
- Loss of critical thinking skills or the ability to solve problems
- Poor judgment
- Difficulties with communication, including reading and writing
- Disorientation and getting lost
- Emotional and personality changes including anxiety, agitation and restlessness
- Social withdrawal
Some of these symptoms can be a typical part of the aging process, but for a person with dementia, they can become so severe that they will impact functioning. Dementia may also be caused by temporary factors that can be reversible. Memory Care experts at Emeritus Senior Living recommend that if you notice increased confusion or memory loss, look for these clues first:
- Malnutrition (simply not eating enough)
- Medication changes
- Changes in routine/environment
If you notice symptoms of dementia that are not explainable by any of the above, it is a good idea to see a neurologist to discover if the symptoms are the result of a treatable condition or are the result of a more serious issue. Dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – is non-reversible because it causes physical changes in the brain.
According to Emeritus Senior Living, some of the greatest challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia are the personality and behavior changes that often occur with the condition. These can show up as aggression, frustration, undressing in public, or a range of inappropriate conduct.
It is important to know that your loved one is not acting this way on purpose. The behaviors are a result of the disease. You can best meet these challenges by using creativity, flexibility, patience and compassion. It also helps to not take things personally and try to maintain your sense of humor. Additionally, there are some specific things you can do to help both you and your loved one better cope with their disease.
Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease
No two people will experience Alzheimer’s or dementia in the same way. Because of this, there is no single correct way to provide care. Your responsibilities can range from making financial decisions, to managing behavior changes, to helping with dressing.
Handling these duties is extremely hard work, but by enlisting some caregiving strategies, you can make your job a little easier, while ensuring that your loved one feels supported and has the best quality of life possible.
For those of you who are taking on the extraordinary task of caring for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s, Emeritus provides these very practical caregiving tips and advice designed to help you care for your loved Senior:
See a doctor
– Some behavior may be caused by something other than dementia. Consult a physician to see if medication side effects, pain, or even an untreated infection can cause a sudden change in behavior. If there is an underlying medical problem, treating that may stop or decrease the behaviors.
Ensure basic needs are met
– Unusual behavior may also be explained by the person simply trying to communicate their needs. It may just be your loved one’s way of saying, “Stop, I need something.” Emeritus Senior Living caregivers recommend figuring out what their need is in order to alleviate the behavior. Check to see if they are:
- Hungry or thirsty
- Afraid, tired or in pain
- Needing to use the toilet
Pay attention to your body language
– Make sure you maintain eye contact, match their emotions, remain calm, and be mindful of your tone of voice, posture, pace and gestures. Remember that we can change our behavior. Changing our own behavior will often result in a change in our loved one’s behavior.
Develop a routine
– People with dementia feel safe when they know what to expect next. Involve them in regular daily tasks that are familiar, such as sweeping, dusting, laundry folding, setting the table – this can help give them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Live in “their moment”
– Do not try to re-orientate them to the present time, which can lead to increased agitation. Try to accommodate the behavior, not control it. For example, if they insist on sleeping on the floor, place a mattress on the floor to make them more comfortable.
Get support from others
– You are not alone. There are many people caring for someone with dementia. Call your local Area Agency on Aging, or the local Emeritus Senior Living facility. They can help you find online or in-person support groups, organizations and services that can help you.