Caring for someone living with dementia can be a long, stressful, and intensely emotional journey. As there is currently no cure for dementia, it is often the care and support that makes the biggest difference to a loved one’s quality of life.
However, caregiving can also become all-consuming. As a loved one’s cognitive, physical, and functional abilities gradually decrease over time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, disheartened, and neglect your health and well-being. Nearly all dementia caregivers, at some time, experience sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and exhaustion. It is important to seek help and support along the way.
We have listed below some important tips for dementia caregivers.
Tips for Dementia Caregivers:
- Get to know the person: understand and be aware of their likes and dislikes. Gathering information about their life history can help when getting to know the person too.
- Smile: the person living with dementia will notice your emotional state, body language and tone of voice.
- Slow down: ensure your care is provided in a calm and relaxed manner. Allow the person to do things for themselves, when safe and keep the tasks simple.
- Introduce yourself: let the person know who you are. Tell them what you are there for and obtain their permission to assist with their care.
- Communicate clearly: explain one point at a time. Ensure that they have their aids near such as reading glasses, if required and use an interpreter if needed.
- Step back: if the person becomes aggressive, make sure you leave the area, reassess and try again later and try to identify the trigger to the behaviour.
- Keep it quiet: stop and listen to the person. Reduce conflicting or lots of noise and avoid crowds.
- Don’t argue: go with the flow, acknowledge and respect what the person is doing and saying, telling them they are wrong may have a negative effect.
- Engage and encourage: get the person started with meaningful activity, set activities up to succeed and thank them for assisting you and themselves.
- Consider safety: approach the person safely, keep a safe distance and allow yourself an exit.
- Distract: talk to the person about their life, give them something to do and provide a relaxed environment.
- Talk with others: speak about what has worked and what hasn’t worked, talk to the person about what has happened and record what you did in certain situations.
Carers often find it difficult to talk about the stress involved with caring. If you feel like you’re not managing, don’t feel guilty. There’s help and support available. You may benefit from counselling or another talking therapy, which may be available online. Talk to your GP or if you prefer, you can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service.