Coping with Dementia
If the symptoms of Dementia are beginning to affect your loved one’s ability to live independently, it may be time to develop a care and support plan for them.
However, despite the very best intentions, it can often be difficult to understand the symptoms and behaviours that are linked with different types of dementia. This can leave the carer feeling helpless, isolated and overwhelmed by their new role.
Read on to alleviate your concerns, get your questions answered and find comfort in addressing the physical and emotional impact of the condition your relative is living with.
Do you feel that a live-in carer would help you cope with the onset of Dementia in your friend or family member? At Ivy Palmer we can help support you to find good live in carers and open your options.
How To Care for Someone With Dementia
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to care for someone with Dementia – every person has their own unique needs. However, certain behaviours that are commonly displayed by those living with Dementia can be handled using tried and tested techniques. The main thing to remember in all circumstances is that direct confrontation is best avoided, as this can distress the patient and lead to more extreme behaviour.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dementia
Inside the home
Did you know that Dementia and the environment are linked? Bad lighting, patterned carpets and wallpapers can cause confusion to a person living with Dementia. You might find that they try to interact with the detail. We’d recommend that these are removed from the home.
Mirrors can be a source of confusion, as the patient can misinterpret what they are seeing in their reflection. So, we would suggest covering up all mirrors and reflective surfaces where possible.
You could also try displaying photos of family members and pictures that show happy images from your loved one’s previous life. These are likely to evoke positive feelings in the patient and help them recognise those closest to them.
Encouraging positive, healthy sleep patterns in the elderly with Dementia is important, as Dementia can severely disrupt an individual’s sleep cycle. The easiest way to ensure a good night’s sleep is to make sure the patient is active and stimulated throughout the day – this will ensure they feel tired and ready for bed in the evening.
Avoid naps where possible. If your loved one does need a rest, make sure they sleep at the same time every day, for the same amount of time.
Outside the home
With the right supervision, your loved one will benefit from a short stroll away from the home. If they are trying to travel to a specific location, talk to them about where they want to go and explain to them why it may not be possible for them to visit this particular place. We would always recommend creating a safe, outdoor space in a familiar setting, perhaps in a back garden, that can provide some respite.
With a visiting or live-in carer from Independent People Homecare, they can help a loved one take a walk safely. You may be able to get help through a local service, group or organisation that helps people with Dementia to take part in leisure activities, including walking.
It’s not unusual for those living with Dementia to want to retain their independence – and this may cause them to want to physically run away from you (and, indirectly, the constraints that are being placed on them).
If this happens, don’t visibly chase your loved one, as this will make them feel as though they are being treated like a child. Follow them calmly, and remain as far away as you can. Remember that they may not recognise you, so they may react with distress if they feel they are being followed by someone they don’t know.
Eating and drinking
The worry of Dementia patients refusing to eat is quite a common one. Many people struggle to eat and drink properly when living with Dementia – and many will refuse the meal that is being presented to them. Wherever possible, cook food that you know your loved one likes.
Explain what the food is and, if necessary, how to prepare or eat it. Try different flavours and preparation methods to stimulate their appetite, and choose colourful food that is easily identifiable. If they refuse food in the first instance, don’t be afraid to try again later in the day.
Worried about your elderly relative refusing care? Understandably, many people with Dementia will feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when they are being cared for. This can lead to distress when addressing many aspects of personal care, including washing and bathing. Your loved one should be encouraged to do as much for themselves as they can, as this will help them feel capable and independent.
The key to managing their personal needs is to try various approaches until you find one that suits their needs. Perhaps you could wash at the same time to make them feel less self-conscious? Or maybe you could introduce wet wipes in the first instance to help them feel more at ease?
Many people with advanced Dementia are not inclined to use the toilet. They may simply not be able to locate it, or they make struggle to decipher the cistern from the rest of their surroundings.
Ensure that the toilet seat is bold, bright and easily identifiable; if needs be, place a visual sign on the toilet door to make it clear where the bathroom is. Always enter the bathroom first, as this will encourage your loved one to follow.
Aggression and inappropriate behaviour
As a rule, Dementia is a largely disorientating condition. Losing their identity and independence can be extremely distressing for those living with Dementia. We’re commonly asked for advice on what to do when Dementia customers get aggressive.
The best way to cope when your loved one becomes agitated or angry is to try to identify the source of the problem. If the person is becoming frustrated that you are helping them, give them some space for a couple of minutes to allow them to calm down, then try again. You will soon begin to notice what triggers anxiety – from there, you can take steps to reduce exposure to the things that are causing negative reactions.
Hopefully, we’ve answered some of your questions about caring for someone with Dementia. If you’d like to chat to us in more detail about how to care for someone with Dementia, we’d be happy to talk things through with you. Contact our compassionate team below.