Dementia and Alzeheimer’s are frightening words. When that diagnosis is made, patients and caretakers alike know their life has changed, and there are a lot of consequences to consider. The thought of “locking away” Mom or Dad in a “home” seems grim indeed.
In a sense, attitude is everything in the world of dementia care, whether you are a patient, family member, or trained professional caregiver. It may not be as grim and challenging as you expect, and you can prepare for the future by educating yourself about dementia and maintaining a positive but realistic attitude. This allows you to maintain an element of control as a caregiver, and can take the sting out of surprising challenges you encounter and also improve the care that you provide.
Following are some important facts to consider when approaching your role as a loving caregiver for someone with dementia. This acronym can help you remember what it takes to be a good caregiver:
Compassion, Attentiveness, Reality, Empathy
Accept support One of your first questions will no doubt be, “What do we do now?” The first answer is, never be afraid to ask for help. There are support groups that allow caregivers to share in a group setting with people who understand what each one is going through. These also allow caregivers to hear what is working for other caregivers and learn about local Alzheimer’s and dementia resources. Similarly, professional caregivers shouldn’t be reluctant to ask a colleague for support when facing an exceptional challenge or difficult time. Caregiving for someone with dementia is not easy and there will certainly be moments when professional caregivers need a hand or someone to talk to.
Actively empathize Effective care is bracketed with compassion and empathy. Empathy means, in essence, feeling what someone else is feeling. It takes awareness, understanding, and careful thought. For example, people with dementia are prone to becoming confused about their whereabouts and even the time period in which they are living. Imagine how you’d feel and would want to be treated if you suddenly found yourself disoriented in an unfamiliar place, not even sure of the year or even your own identity.
Be a realistic caregiver Be realistic about what constitutes success during the progression of the disease. Success is helping to assure that the person you are caring for is as comfortable, happy, and safe as possible. There will be good days and bad days — Try your best to savor the good days and even the good moments for the person with dementia. Also, accept that most types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, are irreversible and progressive. Dementia will tend to get worse over time and there is no known cure.
Dementia is more than memory loss Memory loss is a classic dementia symptom. But some types of dementia manifest themselves as personality changes rather than memory loss. Even when memory loss is the most apparent symptom, the person with dementia is experiencing a neurological decline that can lead to a host of other issues, such as difficult and surprising behaviors and moods. The patient’s world can suddenly consist of delusions, paranoia, and unseemly behavior and language. In the latest stages of most types of dementia, patients become unable to independently attend to activities of daily living. They may become non-communicative, unable to recognize loved ones, and even unable to move about.
Plan for the future When you are caring for someone with dementia, never get too used to the status quo. Family caregivers should prepare for a time when their loved one may need professional memory care in a residential setting. This involves both financial planning and identifying the most appropriate care options in your area. Professional caregivers and memory care providers should continually reassess the care needs and health status of clients and residents with dementia. Care needs will inevitably increase, so plans should be made for any transitions that the resident may require in the future, such as a move to a skilled nursing provider or hospice care.
The mission of Bristol House Memory Care is to provide excellent care to residents and offer peace-of-mind to family members. Our vision is to be the memory care community of choice for families affected with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In the spirit of open communication, we work together with families to create a culture at Bristol House Memory Care based on respect and dignity for all individuals. Our expertise in advanced care practices and commitment to ongoing training ensures that we will provide unsurpassed quality of care.