Dementia affects nearly 50 million people worldwide, with families near and far being impacted by this devastating condition. Navigating dementia, as a family member or loved one by someone who is suffering can be challenging and heartbreaking. With this in mind, we have created a guide to help create awareness of the condition, what to expect, and how to provide appropriate care for your loved one if they’ve been diagnosed with dementia.
Dementia refers to a collection of symptoms that are brought on by disorders that affect the brain. Essentially, dementia is an umbrella term for a number of neurological conditions that cause a loss of cognitive functioning. It is a chronic disease that results in a global decline in brain function. This progressive decline in brain function may present itself through symptoms such as a loss of memory, a reduction in social skills and a decline in physical functioning.
If you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with dementia, their reliance on your assistance, care and compassion is going to increase in the coming months and years. Although this can be a daunting reality, it is important to note that you are not alone as there are approximately 200,000 Australians providing unpaid care to a person with dementia. In addition to this, there are a number of organisations that exist to provide support to carers as they navigate the difficult task of looking after a loved one with dementia. There are a number of ways you can ensure the comfort of your loved one as they live with dementia and the following is a list of our top tips on how best to do so, whilst ensuring you minimise the strain on yourself as a carer.
Create daily routines
Provide a sense of stability and consistency for your loved one living with dementia, and help ease the demands of caregiving, by creating helpful daily routines to follow. Keeping consistent times for daily activities such as waking up, eating and going to bed can help to orientate and create comfort for a person living with dementia. Planning things such as visitors and social events around times when your loved one is feeling their best is also important so as not to overwhelm them. Remember to include therapeutic and relaxing activities in these daily routines to maximise their wellbeing. Spending time outdoors, joining specialised group activities and assisting with their favourite hobbies are a few things to look at organising.
Changes in how your loved one communicates is something you’ll notice as their dementia progresses. It is important to alter your own communication method to accommodate this so as to make them feel safe and avoid them becoming stressed. For example, if they have difficulty recalling a word or story, allow them time to think or gently offer assistance. Becoming anxious or impatient will only stress them and inhibit the recall so it’s important to do your best to be patient in these situations. As cognitive function declines, they will have difficulty processing speech and words so to speak slowly and clearly. By opting for short sentences and only giving one direction or asking one question at a time, you be able to give your loved one extended time to process and respond. Short term memory is one of the first brain functions to decline so avoid asking questions that call on this so as to ensure your loved one doesn’t become confused or humiliated when they cannot answer.
Prepare for the road ahead
Dementia will bring with it significant changes to your loved one’s life but with proper and careful planning, you can minimise the stress of these changes. In the early stages of dementia, your support and assistance will mean they are able maintain their independence. As the condition causes a further cognitive regression however, they will eventually require round-the-clock help. Creating plans together now for their future housing and care requirements can assist with minimising stress in the future. Doing this will enable your loved one to be included in the decision-making process so you are able to ensure their legal, financial and healthcare wishes are upheld when they are no longer able to verbalise them.
Inform people around them
By growing the carer network, you will be able to help both your loved on and yourself. Reach out to their friends, neighbours and other people in the community that they may interact with, such as shopkeepers or the pharmacist, and inform them of your loved one’s condition. These people can be extremely helpful in keeping a watchful and caring eye on a person with dementia which can not only ensure their safety but assist you with sharing the load that comes with being a carer. It is also important to equip your loved one with adequate identification and an emergency contact number for when they go out incase they find themselves in danger.
Here at Karingal Green we offer specialised dementia care and would be honoured to walk you and your loved one through their journey with dementia. We have world class facilities and a secure, purpose-built dementia care wing, along with dedicated and compassionate healthcare professionals that combined, will ensure your loved one experiences the highest quality of life possible.