Living with dementia is difficult, and being a caretaker has its own challenges. Unlike many other health conditions, dementia comes on gradually and the signs can often be easy to miss. Dementia symptoms may include agitation, sleeplessness, delusions and extreme personality changes. At Eskaton, a 50 year old nonprofit, we understand what you are going through and we strive to make the process a little easier for you and your loved ones. To be better suited to care for a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, here are a few tips.
Routines are key
Try to keep a similar routine from day to day to provide a bit of continuity. Establishing a daily routine will help keep things consistent and subconsciously familiar. You don’t have to do exactly the same things every day — in fact, a bit of variety could be helpful. But try to do these activities around the same time every day so that your loved one can return to their routine afterwards.
Keep them involved — within reason
If your spouse loves gardening, don’t tell them to stop! Encourage them to keep up their favorite activities, but keep an eye on the tasks that they struggle to complete. If your loved one is struggling to trim bushes or other plants, then suggest that they pull weeds instead. As long as they are not harming themselves or others, then involvement in their favorite activities is a good thing.
Learn to communicate effectively
As dementia sets in, communication with your spouse will change. They will not understand you in the same way, which is a huge cause for frustration. By adjusting your language and mindset a bit, you can continue to communicate with your spouse in a loving fashion.
Watch for physical abuse — it’s never okay
Sometimes dementia leads to bouts of difficulty. Loved ones can become angry and agitated. They can usually be calmed by kind words or actions, but sometimes, they result in physical abuse. If this happens, do not brush it off. It is always a big deal. Tell their doctor so that it can be handled professionally.
Have your own support system
Living with dementia is difficult, but caring for someone who is living with dementia has its own challenges. Make sure you have a few people that are there to support you as you continue along this journey. An effective support system will help you through the toughest parts and help you release your frustrations in a healthy fashion.
Know your resources — both online and in person
Know where to go when you need help. Dementia care is not an instinctive process, but it is one that many experience. There are many professionals that have studied dementia and proper care, and they would be excellent resources. But, if you are more comfortable using your own research skills, there are plenty of online resources for helpful tips on dementia care. Find these resources long before you need them so that you know exactly where to go when you need it.
At the end of the day, always remember how much you love your spouse. After all these years, they deserve the best care possible. Do what you can, but investigate memory care if it becomes too much for you to handle. It’s not fair to you or to your spouse if you take on more than you can handle.
With a little bit of planning, organization, and a whole lot of love, you and your spouse can find the right balance that works for you.