How to Care For a Loved One With Dementia
Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, a day to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia which affects approximately 160 000 Australian’s. If you have a parent or grandparent who is currently suffering with it, you will know that it is an incredibly challenging and frightening time for the family. So how do you care for a loved one who’s suffering with it? Here are our tips from the SACARE community.
Help without lowering their self-confidence
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you will know that the disease progresses over time, and different characteristics and behaviors vary. One of the most evident early symptoms, is not only memory loss but the inability to perform simple tasks, such as answering the phone, or washing the dishes. Can you imagine how frustrating this must be? Try and reduce their frustrations without lowering their self-confidence. For example, be patient, allow them to take their time, help them subtly like laying out their outfits on the bed, and even provide them with choices such as “would you like to wear this outfit or that one?” rather than “what would you like to wear?”. Try to see life from their perspective and aim to support them without challenging them. Life is very confusing through their eyes. A kind, compassionate, non-judgmental approach, giving them choices will help them feel more at ease.
Listen to their stories. Play their favourite music. Visit babies. Stay in the moment.
“My grandma has Alzheimer’s and I regularly spend one-on-one time with her. I feel the biggest thing that she struggles with the most right now is anxiety. Like with anyone suffering from anxiety, it’s important to stay in the moment as much as possible. My grandma is at her most calm when we focus on the “now”. We’ll share stories, we’ll listen to each other, and we try to understand and learn from each other’s experience. I have also created a Spotify playlist with about 20 songs from her era, including many of her favourites (feel free to listen here). She lights up with so much joy when I play this music and can reference some songs to beautiful memories from the past. Lately, she’s been absolutely fascinated with babies, so when we’re out and about, even if it’s a little embarrassing, I’ll let her walk up to mums and their bubbas and smile and melt at the knees. Babies bring so much joy! (Even to people with disabilities, like mentioned in this post). - Milly, Digital Marketer at SACARE
Make sure they feel safe and healthy
People with Alzheimer’s disease often struggle with their judgement of space and self-care skills. Do make sure you can prevent falls by removing clutter from the floor. Another important thing to do is make sure they’re in a secure environment. Lock doors so that they cannot go out exploring by themselves, sadly this can happen a lot. Take care of their health by ensuring each of the following are included in their every day routine:
- Fresh air – deep breathing amongst nature and sunshine
- Healthy food intake
- Exercise – stretches and light walks
- Hydration - fresh water
- Creativity - what's their passion?
- Rest and sleep
Consistency is the key
Michael's (SACARE’s service coordinator) mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago and visits her in an aged-care home at the same time every weekend. It’s important to establish a routine and stick to a schedule as dementia patients can still learn to follow routines. Michael beautifully and simply shares his advice that:
“Consistency is the key to remain in your loved ones mind and heart.”
Be flexible with your care
Know that the disease progresses differently from patient to patient and symptoms can vary dramatically, even within a few months. So make sure you work
with your doctors and caregivers to make sure you’re tailoring your techniques to suit your loved one’s needs.
It’s incredibly difficult to witness your loved one change dramatically. You must always remember that their changing character is a symptom of the illness,
not reflecting the true character that we knew and loved. Love them unconditionally and with all your heart, even if at times they say or do something
that you do not agree with. Never try to argue with them, they know they are right. You loved them before the illness, so keep on loving them now more
Get professional care
There will come a time where your loving caregiving skills will not be enough. We spoke to Anna Naish from St Louis Aged Care and their top four tips on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s are:
- Early intervention and diagnosis helps maintains your loved ones independence.
- Maintaining a daily, and weekly routine.
- Keeping things in their life as normal as possible and a calm environment.
- Lots of support, patience and reassurance.
In 2003, St Louis Home Care was the first provider in Australia to offer low level in home dementia care. This program was expanded Australia wide in 2004 by the Department of Health. St Louis currently operates a prestige nursing home offering best practice dementia care in the leafy inner Adelaide suburb of Parkside. For more information call: St Louis Home Care Adelaide 8332 0950.
At SACARE, love and understanding isn’t just what we do, it is who we are. If you’d like to read more information about Alzheimer’s Disease, we suggest
visiting the Alzheimer’s Association website.