Caring for a family member who is suffering with dementia poses many challenges. Not only is the individual with dementia now faced with an increasingly difficult and distressing period of their life but so are those family members caring for them. As such, it is important to look after your own physical and mental health as well as the person with dementia.
Here we will be discussing some practical strategies families can use to help cope with the troubling behaviour and communication difficulties often encountered when caring for a person with dementia as well as detailing what resources are available.
How to care for a Family member with dementia
When you are caring for a family member with dementia you will slowly realise that it requires you to both educate yourself on the disease whilst maintaining a positive but ultimately realistic attitude. Caring for someone starts first and foremost with compassion and empathy. As someone who loves and cares for the person, it can be difficult to deal with challenging situations, but it is important to remember how much more difficult it is for the person. Dementia sufferers require your understanding, empathy and most importantly your respect.
As the disease develops, they are more likely to suffer from bouts of confusion and disorientation, causing them to lash out from fear. In these moments it is important to remember that they are not in control and take a moment to consider how you may wish to be treated in such a situation. Reassurance and understanding will go a long way in helping the person manage these situations, making them feel safe in a world that can suddenly feel so alien.
One of the most difficult parts of this disease for family members can often be that at times, it may appear that the individual is back to their old self, completely coherent, present, and able to function normally. It is in these moments that as a family carer you must be strong and remember that dementia is not a linear process. Dementia causes cognitive abilities to fluctuate and change, but ultimately does lead to deterioration which is why it is important to be cautious of over optimism. Dementia is beyond all our control and successfully caring for a family member means ensuring they are safe, happy, and comfortable as much as possible. Some days will be better, and some days will be worse but always remembering that the progression of dementia is irreversible will help you to manage your expectations of the person.
The only certainty that dementia offers is change which means as a family caregiver you should prepare for a time when your loved one may no longer have the mental capacity to act in their own best legal and financial interests. Planning ahead means that both the person with dementia and their family can have peace of mind knowing there are plans in place for the future, predetermined and agreed within the best interest of everyone. For more help and advice regarding planning ahead, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Society’s dedicated page which provides support on making decisions and managing difficult situations as a family.
What support is available for family members caring for those with dementia?
When caring for a family member with dementia, looking after yourself and your own wellbeing can become an afterthought, but it is important you prioritise yourself. In order to care for someone else you must first care for yourself which is why being aware of the resources available to you is so important. You may not require all of these resources at once but as dementia patients progress you may find use in being able to access different levels and types of support at different times.
Asking for support from friends and family
Simply asking friends and family for help and support whether that be allowing you to take a break for a couple of hours or even just to talk to can make a huge difference. Don’t be ashamed to confide in those closest to you if you are struggling.
Join Local Support Groups
Talking to others caring for family members with dementia can be extremely helpful if you are feeling alone and need someone who will understand what you’re going through. These support groups are both in person and online on the Carers UK Forum and the Alzheimer’s Society Talking Point Forum where you can register for free.
Speak to your GP
Coping with the stress that comes with being a carer for a family member is not always easy and if you find yourself struggling, don’t be afraid to get in touch with your GP. It is important to remember that you are only human and can only try your best but in order to do so, you must look after your own mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Your GP will advise you of the best course of action which may include counselling or other talking therapies which are extremely useful in helping you to manage stress and other difficult emotions.
Bringing in Support
For many families, the idea of moving their loved one to a dementia care home is unthinkable but there is alternative dementia care at home solutions available. Abafields Home Care offer bespoke dementia care services that allow your loved one suffering from the disease to be supported living in their own homes and retaining a sense of independence. Our service is ideal for families looking to maintain a sense of normalcy for their family member with dementia in a way which is beneficial to both them and the individual.
Whether your family member requires support with day-to-day tasks or simply would like a familiar face for company, we are here to support families through what can be an uncertain time.
For more information about any of our Dementia Home Care services, or to discuss your requirements in more detail, please give our friendly team a call on 0161 804 5060.