Dementia is a condition that affects the part of the brain responsible for cognitive functioning. This means that the sufferer’s thoughts, memory, and reasoning are distorted to the point where it interferes with their day to day activities and life in general. It can’t be referred to as a disease specifically but rather a symptom and Alzheimer’s disease accounts for most cases, while for other people it happens after a stroke, that is vascular dementia and it is the second most common cause. Other causes of dementia are even reversible for example if it is brought about by problems of the thyroid or a deficiency in vitamins. Dementia is not a natural progression as one age as is many times incorrectly believed.
Caring for a person with dementia can be quite challenging because they cannot clearly communicate with others, often have mood swings and their personality and behavior may change. You want to love them as best you can but it can be daunting and frustrating on both sides. Much as the symptoms and severity vary from one person to another, we have put together a few tips to help caregivers better understand their loved ones.
Project coordinator at FirstCare, Jane Byrne, points out that there are many causes of dementia. The Most common is Alzheimer’s, though the symptoms of dementia can also be caused by a series of strokes, known as vascular dementia.
The first thing one must learn and improve is communication. Use both your words and body language to convey understanding and affection. Keep your message clear and use short sentences. In some incidences, you might be required to introduce yourself to the person and your relationship with them. People with dementia often feel confused, helpless and anxious and may even recall things that never happened. Instead of convincing them that they are wrong it is better to understand what they are feeling at that particular time and address the feelings instead.
People with Alzheimer’s or dementia often forget to eat. Nutrition is very important when dealing with a person with dementia and it is imperative that they get highly nutritious food. Balanced diets keep them in better health and giving them unhealthy food or missing out on meals entire can accelerate the brain degeneration. Work out a program for when they should eat and drink and the kinds of food that they will have. Proper planning is key when taking care of a person with a dementing illness.
- Handling troubling behavior
People with dementia often have disturbing behavior. They get agitated, can have mood swings or even do something shocking like soil themselves. First, you have to maintain patience and compassion. Do not take things personally. Do not hesitate to contact the doctor because some of these might be reactions to the medication they are taking. If not, understand that behavior has a purpose and may be triggered. Since patients may have trouble communicating what they want or feel, their behavior might be a reaction to a need or to something someone said. Please try to maintain a routine or pattern and not disrupt their schedules. Be as creative or flexible as you can because what might work for someone today might not work the next day or ever again because there is not one specific thing that may lead to the behavior.
It is important that as you are taking care of your loved one you are also taking care of yourself. Do not suffer in silence. Reach out to other people in your circumstances for support and encouragement.