Caring for a parent or loved one with dementia can be a challenging and emotional experience. Dementia can affect people in different ways, depending upon the underlying causes, any additional health conditions, and the state of the person’s cognitive function before becoming ill. Symptoms can become worse over time, while others might disappear or only occur in the later stages of dementia. As the disease progresses, the need for help increases – as well as the importance of making sure your loved one’s affairs are in order.
Many people with dementia remain living in their own homes over the course of their illness, including those in more advanced stages. Meeting the ever-changing needs of loved ones with dementia can be stressful for caregivers who oftentimes are family members and friends. Here are a few helpful tips for caring for a parent or loved one with dementia, while also ensuring you are also caring for your own well-being:
- Be patient and understanding. Dementia can cause changes in behavior, memory loss, and confusion. It’s important to be patient and understanding and try to avoid getting frustrated or angry. While it may seem that your loved one is the same as they’ve always been, in many ways they are not. If you are feeling short-tempered, try to remind yourself that they are not behaving this way intentionally.
- Communicate clearly. Speak slowly, clearly, and use simple language when communicating. Avoid asking open-ended questions and instead, provide choices to help your parent make decisions.
- Create a routine. Establishing a routine can help your loved one feel more comfortable and less anxious. Stick to a regular schedule for meals, medication, and activities. Try to avoid exposing them to new environments if possible; new locations and routines can be confusing and make a person with dementia become more agitated.
- Make the environment safe. Dementia can cause disorientation and confusion, which can possibly lead to falls and accidents. It’s important to make sure the home environment is safe by removing tripping hazards, installing grab bars, and using child safety locks on cabinets with dangerous items. Specific precautions required to keep your loved one safe need to be based on their individual needs and caregivers should be constantly assessing to recognize dangerous situations.
- Encourage socialization. Social isolation can be a problem for seniors with dementia. Encourage and enable your parent to engage in social activities like attending a senior center, visiting with friends or family, or participating in hobbies and interests.
- Seek professional help. Caregiving can become emotionally and physically draining so it’s important to understand when it’s time to consider seeking help from a professional, such as a home health aide or a respite caregiver, to provide a break from these arduous duties.
- Take care of yourself. As mentioned above, if you are the primary caregiver of a parent with dementia, it’s important to be sure you are taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and finding time to exercise and engage in hobbies.
Remember that every person with dementia is different and may require different strategies for care. Working with a healthcare professional, dementia care specialist and elder care attorney can help you create a personalized care plan for your parent or loved one.
If you need help navigating the right path for care and ensuring that your parents’ affairs are in order and protected, Fratello Law is here to help. Our attorneys can discuss important planning documents, protecting assets with a trust and applying for Medicaid to help pay for care in the home, assisted living or a nursing home. We have been caregivers too. We get it.