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Dealing with Dementia: Caregiver Tips for Helping Your Loved Ones

Healthcare | December 7, 2022

A family members following dementia tips for caregivers to support her mom.

Caring for an aging loved one takes a lot of hard work and dedication, especially when that loved one has dementia. Conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and related ailments can make it difficult to communicate with your loved one and give them the support they need. Fortunately, there are ways to help you deal with communication problems and other difficulties.

Dementia can pose a variety of challenges, which is why it’s important to know what you can do to deal with problems and make caring for your loved one as rewarding as possible. We’ve broken these tips into different sections to help you address communication, agitation, and other common challenges for family caregivers.

Communication Tips

It’s not always easy to communicate with a loved one when they have dementia, but there are ways to make it a better, more enjoyable process for everyone involved. The following communication tips for dementia caregivers can simplify the communication process and make conversation a lot less stressful.

Stay positive and reassuring

Creating a positive environment goes a long way toward maintaining a pleasant conversation. Make sure you stay upbeat and positive, both in terms of your tone and body language. Sometimes being friendly and respectful is enough to prevent any bad behavior. Nonverbal communication like holding hands or a hug can also help when your family member has trouble communicating.

Get their attention

It’s best to make sure your loved one focuses on you before they get distracted. Start every conversation by addressing your loved one by name – although Mom or Dad will also be just fine. If there are other distractions like the TV or loud noises, try to remove them before getting your loved one’s attention.

Speak slowly, simply, and clearly

When talking with your loved one, try to focus on one subject at a time. Ask simple questions and try to avoid tangents. If your loved one gets confused, repeat your question or statement again in a low, reassuring tone.

Be patient when they talk

While your loved one may struggle when speaking, give them a chance to find words on their own and be attentive. If you notice that they’re getting frustrated, it’s okay to suggest words and help out. Just make sure to let them work things out on their own if they’re able to.

Reassure instead of correcting

It’s common for people with dementia to become confused, anxious, and upset. Try to avoid arguing, telling them they’re wrong, or asking them if they don’t remember something – these may only make them feel worse. Instead, reassure them through humor and affection when they struggle.

Make everything manageable

The simpler the message, the better. If you need your loved one to do something, break it down into a series of manageable tasks. If you have questions, be direct and avoid open-ended questions or too many options. Providing visual cues or examples can also help make these steps or questions seem easier for everyone.

Agitation Tips

Dementia can trigger a lot of unpleasant feelings, including sleeplessness, irritability, and aggression. However, there are a variety of ways that you can limit your loved one from feeling agitated throughout the day.

Limit agitation by reducing triggers

Agitation happens, but there are various ways that you can prevent some problems before they happen. Removing or limiting potential triggers will make it less likely for your loved one to experience agitation, so try taking the following proactive measures:

  • Remove any clutter or noise from the room.
  • Limit how many people are in the same room with your loved one.
  • Limit how much caffeine, sugar, or other types of foods that may make your loved one more excitable.
  • Keep any dangerous objects or problem items out of reach and sight.

Maintain daily routines

Change is scary, especially for someone with dementia. Try and limit any major changes in your loved one’s schedule or surroundings to limit potential agitation. If you need to move furniture or adjust something else in a room, keep those changes small. It’s also best to keep some familiar photos and other objects around to help your loved one recall pleasant memories and give them a sense of security.

Redirect when necessary

When your loved one becomes agitated, redirection can help them get out of a funk. If they’re upset, tell them that you’re sorry they’re upset and try changing the subject. This might involve asking them general questions about something else or taking them out to lunch or some other change of scenery. Either way, this redirection can help them move past their agitation.

Make them feel heard

Agitation often happens when your loved one feels like they’re losing control. This process is quite frustrating for them, but you can help them calm down by acknowledging their feelings. Let them know you understand their frustration and speak as reassuringly as possible. However, do not try to restrain them or hold them back. This process will only make them feel less in control and will make the situation worse.

Self Care Tips

Taking care of a person with dementia is hard. That’s why we also have some dementia tips for caregivers that focus on supporting your needs. Don’t be afraid to take the following steps to make your own life easier.

Ask for help when needed

Being a family caregiver doesn’t have to be a solo commitment. If you have other family or friends nearby, reach out to them for support if you’re feeling overwhelmed – even a little bit of help is better than none.

Stay healthy

It can be easy to forget about your own needs when you’re taking care of someone else. Make sure to eat healthy and exercise so that you don’t wear down over time. If you get stressed, take a break. Everything from a cup of tea to a spa date can help you feel refreshed.

Don’t forget to have fun

It’s important to take some “me” time that extends beyond the occasional break. Keep up with your hobbies and hang out with friends when you can. Caregiving is a tough responsibility, so it’s important to focus on your own enjoyment sometimes.

Join a support group

It can be a big help to hear stories from others and know that you’re not alone. Consider joining an in-person or online support group to focus on your own mental health.

Home Safety Tips

When you take care of a person with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, it’s important to think about where your loved one lives. That includes taking steps to make their home safe or finding a place that can provide them with the right long-term care.

Add safety measures

You want to help your loved ones move around as independently as possible, so it’s important to add some safety features if they live in their own home. Consider adding handrails, safety grips strips, and good lighting to make it easier for your family members to move about on their own.

Lock up dangerous items

There are a lot of potential safety hazards that your loved one may forget about or confuse for something else. Lock up any cleaning products and other dangerous items so that your family member can’t access them while you’re away.

Consider dementia care

Sometimes your loved one needs even more support than they can’t get in their own home. A memory care community can help them enhance the quality of their life and receive the support they need to live their best life.

Of course, it’s not always easy to find a memory care community that’s right for you and your family. At National Church Residences, we take an individual approach to supporting people with dementia and exceed the expectations of residents and their families. Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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