Caregiving of any kind involves meeting a variety of challenges on a daily basis. For the caregiver whose loved one is suffering from dementia, the challenges may be especially difficult at times.
Every individual is different, and how they present themselves changes from moment to moment; however, many people who care for a person with dementia find the following strategies can be helpful in dealing with issues that often present over the course of a day.
Don’t count on agreements. One of the things that can be frustrating when working with dementia is that the caregiver can’t depend on making agreements. Getting a patient to “agree” not to leave the house without telling someone isn’t realistic, as a person with dementia is likely to forget they ever made that agreement. Finding a practical solution is more beneficial. For example, if the patient is prone to wander outside the house, install a bell or other auditory signal that will sound when a door to the outside is opened.
Sidestep reality. One of the saddest things about dementia is that a person may forget important information about someone they love or something that is quite personal. For example, Grandfather may ask where his wife is, not remembering that she passed away three years ago. The inclination for many caregivers is to remind him that his wife is no longer with him; however, this may cause him to relive the pain of her passing. And he is likely to bring this matter up more times in the future. In most instances, it is better to not focus on reality — the deceased wife. Instead, try to get Grandfather to talk about why he wants her, memories of her, things that he associated with her, etc.
Know when to tell. Often it is much better to tell a person with dementia what is going to happen instead of asking them a question about it. For example, it may be better to say, “I’ve made a nice omelet for your breakfast today” rather than asking “What do you feel like eating?” Asking can create a situation in which the loved one becomes confused or discomforted. Knowing which situations require questions and which are better served by statements can make caregiving much easier.
Get in front. Often when a person with dementia is startled, it can cause them to become defensive and aggressive. A caregiver can help by approaching a patient from the front, rather than from the side or behind. Sometimes treading rather heavily coming into a room can also help a person “ease into” the situation.
Caring for someone with dementia requires patience, skill, commitment, and sensitivity. Finding the right way to meet specific challenges can make the job easier.