Caring for and supporting individuals with dementia can be rewarding, helping caregivers to develop new skills and a better emotional understanding of the condition but it can also pose many challenges. People suffering with dementia will struggle with declining cognitive abilities, over time being unable to effectively communicate, problem solve, take care of themselves as well as experience a range of personality and mood changes. This decline in brain function can be an extremely frightening and lonely time for sufferers who can often sense something is wrong but are helpless to do anything.
Here we will be exploring ways in which care givers can care for someone with dementia, how to improve dementia care as well as how to cope with caring for someone with dementia. It can be a difficult experience for caregivers which is why help with dementia care is so important. Creating a positive and understanding environment for the mental and emotional welfare of both the carer and individual with dementia is key.
How to care for someone with dementia
Caring for someone with dementia involves educating yourself about the disease whilst maintaining a very positive but ultimately realistic attitude towards their needs and condition. Staying in control as a caregiver is key to anticipating challenges, rising to them and improving the care you can provide when dealing with a dementia family member.
Any carer will tell you that the most important part of caring for someone is being compassionate and empathetic, always. Dementia sufferers more than most require understanding, empathy and above all, respect. As their cognitive abilities deteriorate they are likely to become more confused, perhaps forgetting where they are, what year they are in and who you are. If you were to put yourself in their position, you would hope that the person caring for you would be understanding, supportive and reassuring when you experience these moments of disorientation.
Being a carer can be increasingly difficult when at times, the person you are caring for seems to be improving. They can suddenly appear present, coherent and able to function normally but this can quickly change. Dementia is not a linear process of deterioration and it is therefore important to be realistic about the progression of the disease. Being a successful carer means ensuring the individual is safe, happy and comfortable as much as is possible. There will be bad days and better days but remembering that the progression of dementia is irreversible will help you to manage your expectations of the individual.
How to care for dementia patients at home
Caring for individuals with dementia at home comes with its own unique challenges, particularly as the disease progresses but there are steps you can take to support them. In the early stages of dementia, individuals are often able to continue enjoying life as they did prior to their diagnosis. However, as symptoms get worse, the individual may become stressed and anxious as they can no longer remember names, places, dates or struggle to focus. It is important that you work to support the person in maintaining skills, abilities and daily routines to help them feel better about themselves and their capabilities.
Caring for dementia patients at home can involve letting them help with everyday tasks such as shopping, laying the table for dinner, feeding pets, gardening and other areas of their daily routine. To assist them you may want to use memory aids around the home such as signs and labels to help them remember what objects are and which room is which. This can be particularly useful with bathrooms as sometimes people with dementia can forget where the toilet is or that they need to use it and require visual cues.
There are many ways you can help to create a more dementia friendly home environment as a caregiver. Extreme changes can be unhelpful and confusing but by making small changes over time, you will be able to gently assist the individual in living independently with dementia. Finding ways to reduce excess noise, reduce the intensity of lighting with dimmer bulbs, removing rugs or mats that can be tripped over as well as limiting their exposure to reflective surfaces are just some of the small changes that can help improve their home environment.
The Alzheimer’s Society has a useful guide here, for carers that outlines ways in which the home can be adapted for dementia patients.
How to cope with caring for someone with dementia
It can be difficult for caregivers to see themselves as individuals that also require help and support but it important to remember you are only human. You should never be afraid to ask for help whether that is by reaching out to friends, family, colleagues or support groups.
Support groups can be an effective and healthy tool for carers, providing them a space to vent and converse with others who are in a similar role to themselves. It is a great opportunity to discuss what you are feeling and what is and isn’t working for other carers, learning about the resources they use to improve both the lives of the dementia sufferer, as well as themselves.
Being a carer for someone with dementia is not an easy task, there is a lot of ups and down and moments where you will need help, care and support for yourself.
Help with dementia care
There are a variety of avenues for support and help with dementia care available to carers. Different levels of support may be required and be useful at different periods which is why it is important to be aware of the resources available to you. Abafields Home Care can also help you with our dementia home care services in Greater Manchester.
There is a range of organisations available to help with dementia care as well as providing mental and emotional support for carers such as:
- GPs, staff at memory clinics and other health professionals.
- Local social services departments
- Local support groups including your local Alzheimer’s Society office, Age UK and Carers UK.
- Online discussion forums and Zoom support groups
- Talking therapies and counselling
There are also a range of free online resources and support materials that are available from the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, Carers UK and NHS websites. If you require help with dementia care or are struggling as a career, always reach out and know that you are not alone.