Real Life Strategies for Caring For Someone With Dementia
There are nearly 16 million family members who are caregiving their senior loved one with dementia, according to the National Caregiving Alliance. That’s a lot of people taking on a huge task that they aren’t necessarily trained to do. If you or someone you know is a caregiver of someone with dementia, you understand that it can be...challenging...at best! Unfortunately, due to the nature of diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss, the “logical” way to handle things ends up being pretty counter-intuitive.
Although this is a big task, remember: you’re not alone. There are many people out there who are dealing with the same issues as you...and there’s a lot of great information available on the web and through various organizations. While Melrose Meadows isn’t a memory care community, we have many years of experience helping residents who are struggling with memory loss. Here are some of the real-life, practical tips we’ve picked up over the years that have been incredibly helpful to us, our residents and their family members.
Being reasonable and rational doesn’t always work.
As logical people, our go-to when someone isn’t acting in a sensible way is to explain the situation. However, that doesn’t work with people who have dementia, because their brains simply can’t process logic anymore (that’s a vast oversimplification, but you get the gist). Instead, roll with it. Be kind and find ways to deflect or redirect behaviors. Reality is subjective...and that’s okay.
Someone with memory loss will often forget important things, like his wife is deceased or his children are fully grown. They can also experience hallucinations that are very real to them. Trying to bring them “back to reality” ends up being traumatic, hurtful and painful because what they’re experiencing is so “real” to them. Understand that it’s okay if they forget things or are “in another world,” and that it’s better to redirect their attention or “go with the flow” in order to keep them calm and happy. (This is known as “therapeutic fibbing.”)
Distract and Redirect.
One of the most successful strategies for responding to an agitated, disoriented or confused person with dementia is to distract and redirect. People with dementia often get hyper-focused on something that can be upsetting to them. Distracting or redirecting to a different task can help snap their brain out of that obsessive, repetitive cycle. Don't argue with what they're saying - instead, give a short, sympathetic response and then immediately suggest a cup of tea, a walk, or helping with a chore. "Oh man, I hate when that happens. Hey, could you help me fold these napkins? It would really help me out."
You can’t do it all, so ask for help.
It’s perfectly normal to think you can handle everything as a caregiver. However, you are not a superhero (although you’re performing a superhuman feat). Dementia is an all-encompassing disease that progressively takes over every aspect of your loved one’s life. You simply can’t manage everything and care for yourself, too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – in fact, seek it out! Have a list of tasks that others can perform for you so that if and when they ask, you have specific things they can do. You should also look into local organizations, such as adult day care centers or meal services, that can provide some much-needed assistance.
There will be good days and bad days.
No one is a perfect caregiver. And dementia is a tough disease to care for – what works for your senior one day can end up being the absolute worst thing the next. It’s okay to be frustrated, angry, sad and emotional. This doesn’t mean that you're a bad caregiver – it simply means you’re human! Allow yourself to feel your emotions, understand that some days won’t be great and cherish the good days when they happen.
There’s still time to make meaningful memories.
Your loved one is still the same person they were before the diagnosis, and they’re still able to perform tasks and use their remaining abilities. Instead of dwelling on what’s been lost, celebrate what’s still there and spend time creating memories that you can carry with you for a lifetime. Spend time together doing fun things. Laugh as much as you can. Take pictures and reminisce. Even though your loved one’s memories will fade, the love they feel will last forever.
Wondering if your loved one needs Memory Care, or if Assisted Living would be a good fit? Give us a call or shoot us an email - we can help!