Dementia is a complex medical diagnosis that can affect each individual and their family differently. Because of this, being a caregiver to a loved one with dementia can be a lot to take on. Trying to figure out what is the best way to care for your loved one and aide them in this life transition can be extremely overwhelming, and almost impossible, if you don’t know what to expect. “Caring for a loved one with dementia is not something that comes intuitively,” states Danielle Buck, Director of Community Relations at YourLife™of Stuart, a Memory Care community in Stuart, Florida. “There’s a lot to learn when you are just starting out, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a difficult struggle you do all alone.” “Sometimes the best advice comes from those who have experienced it firsthand,” Danielle continues. “That’s one of the many reasons why the team at YourLife of Stuart works hard to support caregivers with the best educational resources and information on what to expect in conjunction to our marvelous Memory Care.”
7 Things Dementia Caregivers Wish They Knew Sooner
Becoming a caregiver for a loved one with dementia is not something you commonly prepare for in life. However, with these few tips and resources, you can feel much better prepared with the knowledge that other caregivers wish they knew sooner.
- Dementia Is Much More Than Memory Loss
When most people hear the term ‘dementia,’ their first thought tends to be an individual with memory loss. However, dementia affects much more than just your loved one’s memory. Language, motor skills, attention, perception, reasoning and judgement can all be affected. It’s important to realize that these components of your loved one’s behavior may also be altered with dementia and take note of any drastic changes to help aide medical professionals in making the best decisions for your loved one’s care. The Senior List offers a much more detailed personal account of these changes and what to look for in your loved one.
- Denial Helps No One
Learning that someone you love and care about has been diagnosed with dementia can feel like a major life change. Coming to terms with this diagnosis can take time and a lot of processing. It is normal to feel fear and a bit of denial. However, if you or your loved one continue to disregard their dementia then not only is your loved one not receiving the appropriate care they need, but you are also cutting yourself off from extremely helpful supports and assistance that can take some of your burden and walk you through all the questions you are having. The Alzheimer’s Association® offers an informative piece about coming to terms with a dementia diagnosis with tips for both you and your loved one to help you find your sense of acceptance.
- Check Medications
Though there is no medical cure for dementia, there are a few drugs that may be able to slow down the diseases progression and relieve some of your loved one’s related symptoms. When considering medications for your loved one with dementia you want to start on small doses, making only one medication change at a time. You also want to avoid any drugs that side effects include worsening memory or increasing confusion. Be knowledgeable about other medications your loved one is on to monitor any possible drug interactions. Keeping an up-to-date list of your loved one’s medications and what doses they are taking can help both you and your family’s medical providers offer your loved one the best medical care they deserve. The University of California San Francisco Weill Institute for Neurosciences’ Memory and Aging Center has numerous beneficial resources for caregivers of those with dementia, including a detailed article looking at the various components of medications and dementia.
- Life Can Still Be Fulfilling
Life still continues on for your loved one and your family after your loved one’s dementia diagnosis. Though your loved one with dementia may need a bit more support and care, they are still able to be an active participant in what they have always enjoyed. Knowing your loved one’s triggers and being able to avoid them with a decent routine and advocacy can allow your loved one to continue living a meaningful, happy life. The Dementia Action Alliance has an online database of plenty of heartwarming stories from firsthand perspectives of those living with dementia and continuing to enjoy various parts of life, like this one from Dallas Dixon about getting confused and being given amazing customer service at his local bank.
- Learning the Language of Dementia
Communicating with your loved one with dementia requires a bit of preplanning and forethought at times. You want to keep a positive mood by being reassuring and affectionate. Asking simple to answer questions keeps your loved one engaged without causing them to become frustrated or too overwhelmed. When giving instructions or telling a story, be short and clear to help you loved one understand what you are saying. Be willing and patient as your loved one takes time to process responses or find the right words to reply. If your loved one becomes upset, don’t be afraid to distract or redirect them to help keep the environment calm and comfortable for everyone. The Family Caregiver Alliance, a National Center on Caregiving, offers a wonderful piece on their website titled “Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors”, which details tips for communicating as well as navigating your loved one’s various behaviors.
- Planning for the Future Is Vital
Planning for your loved one’s future is an important concept of their caregiving journey. As their dementia progresses they may need different levels of care, something that you need to consider and prepare for well in advance. Starting to develop a care team of relatives, neighbors, and other loved ones can make sure you are not alone in caring for your loved one with dementia. Also making sure that your loved one’s legal and financial affairs are in order is vital to maintaining them later on. Talking to your loved one and making plans together can ensure that you make decisions based on what you both believe is best, instead of feeling like you are totally guessing. The Alzheimer’s Association® offers various resources for individuals with dementia and their loved ones to help plan for their future. These resources offer step-by-step lists to help your family plan for your loved one legally, financially and medically.
- Self-Care Is Important, Too
Maintaining your own well-being as a caregiver is just as important as your loved one with dementia’s health and well-being. Finding support in support groups, relatives or local friends can help you feel part of a community and not alone in your caregiving journey. Make sure to keep up your activities and interests, even if your loved one can no longer partake in them with you. It’s okay to need a break and ask others for help. Remember you are not alone. You are not a perfect, do-it-all superhuman and that’s completely okay. No one expects you to do it all on your own. The National Institute on Aging has a number of helpful tips on “Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Caring for Yourself.” This list offers helpful mantras and self-reflection statements for caregivers to truly take a look within themselves and gauge their own well-being for a change. Being a caregiver for a loved one with dementia can be a daunting task. However, these few tips on things that caregivers wish they knew sooner, and invaluable resources, will help you be more prepared to best care for your loved one. To learn more about how to best support your loved one with dementia, contact the team at YourLife™ of Stuart at 772-207-4191. We’d be happy to share more tips for caregivers of a loved one with dementia, as well as invite you to join us for one of our upcoming events!
Designed for You. Defined by You.
YourLife™ of Stuart was created with one purpose – to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. As Memory Care specialists, we focus all our energy, attention and resources to creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality, while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families. Because Memory Care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We see each resident as an individual, understanding that everyone has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities. With that information, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence. Our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide assistance with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection. Through our signature programming, YourStory, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and health and wellness programming, scheduled outings and other special events to personal care, assistance and multiple therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Stuart, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more! Call us at 772-207-4191 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.