Caring for loved ones with dementia
Bayshore | | Caregiver Support
If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, you know it takes patience and compassion.
Although you are caring for people you love, the caregiver journey can be demanding and stressful, leading to physical, emotional, psychological, and financial strain. “Trying to support a loved one through the journey of dementia can be very lonely,” says Bayshore’s London Care Manager Maura Haughian.
But help is out there—you’re not alone.
A study by the Alzheimer Society of Canada found that dementia will continue to be a growing issue in Canada, with the number of people living with some form of dementia projected to triple over the next 30 years. The study also found that in 2020 there were 350,000 care partners (family members) for people with dementia.1
Understanding dementia, where you can find support, and what you can do as a caregiver is important so both you and the person with dementia can live as well as possible.
Let’s talk about what dementia is, some practical tips to help you care for your loved one and where you can find caregiver support.
What is dementia?
People with dementia from conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease have a progressive biological brain disorder that makes it increasingly more difficult for them to remember things, think clearly, communicate with others, and take care of themselves.
In addition, dementia can cause mood swings and even change a person’s personality and behavior.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, your role in managing daily tasks may increase as the disease progresses.
Here are some ways to deal with behavior and communication difficulties when caring for a person with dementia.
1) Reduce frustrations
- Establish a daily routine. Tasks like bathing or medical appointments are easier when the person is most alert and refreshed. Allow some flexibility for spontaneous activities or particularly difficult days.2
- Involve the person. Allow the person with dementia to do as much as possible for themselves. For example, they might be able to set the table with the help of visual cues or dress independently if you lay out clothes in the order they go on.2
- Provide choices. Provide some, but not too many, choices every day. For example, provide two outfits to choose from, ask if they prefer a hot or cold beverage, or ask if they would rather go for a walk or see a movie.2
Adapting your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one.
- Break down activities into a series of steps. Encourage your loved one to do what they can, gently remind them of steps they tend to forget, and assist with steps they’re no longer able to accomplish on his own.2
- Respond with affection and reassurance. People with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves. If they confuse reality and recall things that never really occurred, avoid trying to convince them they are wrong. Focus on the feelings they are demonstrating (which are real) and respond with verbal and physical comfort, support, and reassurance. Sometimes holding hands, touching, hugging, and praise will get the person to respond when all else fails.2
- Remember the good old days. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they can clearly recall their lives 45 years earlier. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking general questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.2
3) Create a safe environment
Dementia impairs judgment and problem-solving skills, increasing a person’s risk of injury. To promote safety:
- Prevent falls. Avoid scatter rugs, extension cords and any clutter that could cause falls. Install handrails or grab bars in critical areas.2
- Use locks. Install locks on cabinets that contain anything potentially dangerous, such as medicine, alcohol, guns, toxic cleaning substances, dangerous utensils and tools.2
- Check water temperature. Lower the thermostat on the hot-water heater to prevent burns.2
Get caregiver support from others
If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, you’re not alone. Did you know that there are communities out there that can support you in your caregiving journey?
“Reach out to your family and friends, and consider joining a support group, they will assist you with different coping strategies to help you manage everything you are feeling at every stage of the disease,” says Maura.
No matter what kind of help you need, from learning how to take of family members with dementia, to taking care of yourself, it’s there.
Here are some resources where you can find a community of others who are also caring for loved ones with dementia:
Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence
Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health
We understand that caring for someone with dementia can be a lot of work and you may need support.
Bayshore Home Health offers a wide range of home care services, including dementia care, to help Canadians live independently for as long as possible. Contact us at 1-877-289-3997 for details.