Caring for a dementia patient is no easy task owing to the complex nature of the illness. It is a whirlwind of emotions, to say the least. Having to deal with memory loss, personality changes, altered mood, and impaired thinking can be quite distressing. Therefore, it is essential for all caregivers to know certain things, so that they are not left feeling completely stranded.
Here are 7 things every dementia patient caregiver must know.
1. Get a diagnosis and plan accordingly
The early signs of dementia can be tricky to pick up on. Owing to the nature of early dementia symptoms, it is easy to ignore them and let them slide. However, a caregiver sometimes knows more than a professional because they actually spend time with the patient to observe changes over time. If you feel like a loved one is experiencing symptoms that are different from the norm, it is prudent to seek professional help.
An excellent place to start would be to take online brain tests that can help one get an idea of what is wrong. Once you have sought advice from a professional, you can start planning. Not only will you have to take care of medical plans but also legal and financial issues such as powers of attorney, living will, etc. Paperwork can be tedious, so it is best if you start taking care of issues early on.
2. Educate yourself
Everyone is not equipped with all the necessary knowledge concerning dementia. It can be quite stressful as neurodegenerative disorders tend to take a severe toll on the patient’s well being that only gets worse with time. It is crucial that you understand what you are dealing with through and through.
Study the topic, research on it and try to know as much about it as you can. The more you know, the better it will be for you as you will know what to expect; thus you will be prepared in case any emergencies arise.
3. A support group
Everyone needs a support system composed of friends, family, neighbors, doctors, etc. As a caregiver, one must acknowledge that they cannot deal with such a massive responsibility on their own. We all need help at the end of the day with one task or another. Therefore, a support group is necessary for not just the patient but also for the caregiver.
If you feel like the situation is getting too disturbing for you, seek help. Talk to the patient and let them know that they need aid. It could be for something as small as running out to get the groceries or merely spending time with the patient.
4. Learn to communicate
One of the most commonly encountered symptoms of dementia is personality changes in the patient. Owing to these changes, communication can often become quite challenging. For an individual to be able to connect with their loved ones effectively, it is essential to talk to them and understand them. Adopt a positive outlook and tone. Learn to ask simple questions. Read nonverbal cues and try not to argue with a dementia patient because it can do more harm than good.
Dementia patients are already going through a lot internally. As a caregiver, it is important to make them realize that you recognize their perspective. Instead of trying to make them understand your point of view and explaining things to them, learn to talk openly with them. And be sure to hear them out.
5. Focus on the pros
Performing the role of a caregiver can be challenging. This is because there are multiple obstacles one has to face especially when it comes down to communication and understanding. Being in an authoritative position, it is likely that we focus on fixing what is wrong instead of appreciating what is already fixed and functional. Therefore, it is wise to focus on the pros rather than the cons if you are to make this endeavor bearable.
If the patient makes a mistake, instead of fixing it immediately, try to go with the flow. It is okay if a patient is putting on the right glove on the left; what matters is that they at least are capable of doing their own work.
If you feel like a patient is demanding something rather outrageous, talk to them and ask them why they want to do that particular thing. It is all about acknowledging perspectives and appreciating the positives; regardless of how small or big, they may be.
6.Maintain a steady pace
Dementia is an illness that progresses at its own rate. None of the timelines can state the progress of dementia and the speed with which it deteriorates. Be flexible and keep it steady. Owing to the constantly changing nature and symptoms of this illness, it is important for caregivers not to get frustrated. Instead, adopt a more understanding approach.
Maintain a steady speed because you learn along the way about how to tackle different situations. Patience is not a virtue when taking care of a dementia patient; it is a necessity.
7. Keep yourself in check
Caretaking is stressful because you have to deal with multiple things at one time. For an illness such as dementia, the stakes are even higher. This is because you do not have the comfort of dealing with a routine or personality. Therefore, it is imperative not to get carried away and let your stress consume you.
Actively try to control your anger, frustration, anxiety, and subsequent depression. This is because watching a loved one fade into a mere shadow of their true selves is very tough. Take care of yourself because someone else is dependent on you. The last thing anyone wants is for you to feel completely burnt out.
Taking care of a dementia patient is a full-time responsibility that can get exhausting mentally, physically and emotionally. Your support group will make sure you keep your sanity intact, and this task is not a burden for you. Dementia patients are dealing with a lot on their own but for an individual to deal with a dementia patient is even more arduous. See the world through the patient’s eyes by talking to them as a friend rather than an authoritative figure. With time, you will find yourself in a position that this responsibility will not feel burdensome. Learn from these tips, so you know better.