Caretaking is a difficult job, filled with anxiety, connection, frustration, and love. Caring for someone with Dementia can be especially challenging as you adjust to increasing care needs as the disease progresses. Know you are not alone. Support groups for caregivers can often help in validating your experiences and sharing thoughts and ideas.  This blog post will provide a few tips that may be of help to you as a caretaker.

Conversing with a Loved One with Dementia

Folks with Dementia are going through a lot of changes. These changes are confusing and sometimes heartbreaking. They can lead to agitation and frustration for everyone- including the caretaker.

With Dementia, the functional memory is often the first to decline. This includes reasoning and comprehension. An example of an activity that may be newly challenging is the ability to pick an item to eat at a restaurant. Oftentimes, the procedural memory will show decline next. This may include activities that are not as conscious such as knowing when they are hungry or thirsty or the ability to drive. The emotional memory is generally the last to decline. Because this is the case, it can be helpful to focus attention specifically on the emotional.

Memory loss can feel like living in a fog, where you still want to be in control and safe. Because this is the case, it is often best to avoid short-term memory questions such as, “What did you do yesterday?” or “Do you remember?” Questions like this may make your loved one feel frustrated or bad about themselves for not knowing the answer. Instead focus on long-term memory or joys that may still be present. A few ideas are below:

  1. Humor: What do they think is funny?
  2. Music: Consider playing their favorite songs from “back in the day.”
  3. Spiritual Base: Are there any verses or poems that they once felt comforting? Perhaps read these to them.
  4. Texture: Do they have a special blanket or comfort item?
  5. Visuals: What do they like to see…flowers, sunsets, favorite animals? Show them a picture.
  6. Favorite Smells: Do they love the smell of popcorn or bread baking?

The Day-to-Day

  1. Establish a daily routine: Creating a loose schedule of how each day of the week will go can be very helpful in planning and thinking ahead. It also provides your loved one with consistency.
  2. Budget plenty of time: Frustration can often come when you find yourself running late to scheduled appointments. Know that getting out the door will take longer than it may have before and build that time into the schedule.
  3. Provide Simple Choices: It is valuable to an individual to be as involved in their own care as much as possible. Providing simple choices may help facilitate this such as, “Do you want to wear the blue or green shirt today?” or “Apple sauce or fruit cup for a snack.”
  4. One-Step Instructions: Following directions can become difficult and aggravating for someone with Dementia. Giving each instr
  5. uction one at a time can help mitigate this challenge.
  6. Safety: Remove items such as extension cords, or floor lamps to prevent falls. Lock away potentially dangerous items such as lighters, matches, medications, car keys, and cleaning supplies. Be sure to check water temperatures when your loved one is washing their hands or bathing.
  7. Make a Wandering Plan: People with Dementia are sometimes prone to wandering. To avoid this, plan simple activities when wandering is most likely to occur. Avoid very busy or crowded places, especially if they are difficult for your loved one. Provide your loved one with a medical bracelet and consider a warning bell/alarm on doors.