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How Do You Cope When a Loved One Has Dementia?
Tuesday, 15 December 2020

A loved one becoming diagnosed with dementia can come as a shock and knowing how to deal with the illness is a worry you have to try and deal with. In the US alone, there are reportedly 16 million caregivers to those living with dementia and many more around the world who are in the same boat. Unless you have dealt with caring for someone with the disease previously, you will find that it will become a long and emotional journey that can be both mentally and physically challenging to the point where you feel unable to cope. However, in this blog, we’re going to provide a list of useful pointers to take on board on how to cope when a loved one has dementia:

1. Being on hand to help with everyday tasks

In the early days of the diagnosis, it’s unlikely that not much will have changed concerning their mental state and may be able to live life as normal. While this is the case, it’s always good to be on hand if they become confused or feel out of control, as well as helping out with domestic chores or personal hygiene where possible. As symptoms worsen, they may become more stressed and anxious, however, using memory aids and placing notes around their home will remind them of certain things to help them through their day-to-day living.

2. Managing money

After receiving a diagnosis, it’s important to think logically about how your loved one’s money will be managed, as there will come a time when they will be unable to take care of their finances without assistance. Before their symptoms worsen, it would be wise to speak openly about setting up direct debit payments for household and energy bills to prevent missed payments. In other circumstances, it may be best to speak with companies they are linked with to inform them that the bill payer has been diagnosed with dementia and that yourself or someone else will now be the first point of contact.
Agreeing on a lasting power of attorney (LPA) would also be advisable to legally handle your loved one’s finances and make crucial decisions as their memory declines.

3. Be a good communicator

Communicating with someone who has dementia can be draining – you may find yourself repeating answers to questions over and over again and simple words and phrases aren’t making sense. In these situations, it’s easy to become irritated, but it’s important to realize this is just part and parcel of their condition. Keeping calm will allow them to feel more relaxed in your company, as opposed to stressed and agitated. If you find that the constant questioning and confusion is getting too much for you, simply take a break outside to gather your thoughts.
As dementia worsens, you may find that your loved one doesn’t recognize you by sight, therefore, remind them of your name when you visit. Also be sure to talk slowly, as they may find it difficult to process what is being said.

4. Plan activities

Your loved one must have a daily routine to follow to avoid confusion and to ensure that they have a focus each day. Activities that stimulate the senses and allow them to socialize with others would be a good idea. However, taking the time to keep them entertained every single day can be near enough impossible while working and fitting in your other responsibilities, therefore, you could consider full-time memory care. By living on-site, they will have access to 24-hour carers who will deal with their needs, as well as planning activities to encourage promote self-expression and potentially prevent their memory from declining rapidly.
In the early stages of dementia, think about the activities they enjoyed doing before being diagnosed, but do be aware that you may need to adapt them slightly to meet their new needs. You may also wish to vary activities on a day-to-day basis, which invigorate different senses such as touch, sight, smell and hearing.

5. Deal with distressing behaviors

One of the major challenges you may face when caring for a loved one is dementia is that they may have a complete change in character and develop distressing behavior, which you have never experienced before. Although it can be disturbing to witness, do take on board that it is a common symptom of the disease. You may find that they become violent or are refusing to eat and drink. These sporadic and often random outbursts are often linked to the fact that they are unable to take control of their condition and find communicating difficult. By making some simple changes, you may be able to make your loved one’s life much easier and potentially, improve their wellbeing.

6. Develop a personal support plan

Although your highest priority will be taking care of your loved one’s needs, you also need to focus on your own welfare in order to keep going at the same pace. Without getting any form of support, you will begin to struggle, therefore, creating a personal support strategy should include the following:

7. Ask for help

Although you may feel as though you have everything under control, it’s simply impossible to take the entire burden off your shoulders. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other family members, friends or charity dementia groups who will be able to provide comfort and guidance if you feel as though you’ve hit a brick wall. Also, ask if you need assistance with certain tasks to schedule in some time for yourself – whether that be total relaxation, enjoying hobbies or focusing on improving your health.
It would also be a good idea to join a support group in order to talk to others who know exactly what you’re going through. You may have reached a point where you need to vent and speak to others in the same position, and in doing so, you’ll have a safe space to speak openly about what you’re dealing to help ease feelings of isolation, fear and distress in the most challenging times.
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