A dementia diagnosis is a life-changer for both the senior and the senior’s family. Receiving news that one has this irreversible brain disease is upsetting. For families, new memory care routines must be established at home in order to properly support the individual suffering from dementia.
What is dementia?
Dementia occurs when brain cells are damaged. Brain cells are no longer able to communicate normally with each other, leading to disruptions in thinking, reasoning, judgment, behavior and feelings. Changes in the brain are permanent and worsen over the course of several years.
The onset of dementia is gradual. In fact, the disease progresses in stages, from mild to moderate to severe. The thinking skills of a person with dementia begin to decline. Memory, language and problem-solving abilities decrease over time. Memory loss, too, is characteristic in dementia patients.
While a cure for most progressive dementias, like Alzheimer’s, has not been developed, some drug treatments may temporarily improve symptoms. Non-drug therapies have also proven to be effective in alleviating certain dementia symptoms. Here are ways to care for a senior with dementia at home:
1. Communicate Compassionately
In the early stages of dementia, the senior will struggle to find the right words or names. When such struggles occur, offer patience and suggest words. Listen for the meaning behind broken sentences. In conversation, use simple words. Speak slowly and in a reassuring tone.
Ask yes or no questions rather than open-ended ones. For example, ask the senior if she would like to wear the blue dress or the green one. Provide visual clues to promote understanding. Display the two dress choices to help guide the senior’s response.
2. Simplify Tasks
Familiar tasks become increasingly difficult in the early and middle stages of dementia. The elderly individual may be confused as to which utensils to use during dinner, for example, or may no longer remember where to set the plates on the dinner table.
Break down each task, no matter how insignificant, into smaller steps. Start with encouraging the senior to do what she is able. Proceed with gentle reminders of the forgotten steps. Finally, assist the senior to complete the activity that she is otherwise unable to independently perform.
3. Reduce Wandering
Seniors suffering from the middle stages of dementia are likely to wander. Wandering is usually triggered. The senior may be looking for something or someone; she may be bored; the individual might have a desire to quench her thirst or may need to use the bathroom.
Minimize wandering via several techniques. Encourage exercise during the day, which promotes restful sleep at night. Allow the senior to wear GPS technology. Security measures include installing a home alarm and new locks that require keys. Inform neighbors about the senior’s tendency to wander.
4. Decrease Incontinence
Especially in the middle stages of dementia, incontinence issues arise. The senior will have difficulty controlling bowel and bladder movements. The dementia patient may be unable to get to the bathroom in time or may even forget where the toilet is located. Accidents are likely to occur.
Reduce embarrassment by reminding the senior to use the bathroom routinely, such as every two hours. While encouraging fluid intake is advised to prevent dehydration, limit beverages during evening hours. A commode or incontinence pads are conveniences for seniors experiencing incontinence.
5. Soothe Agitation
Uncharacteristic moodiness, agitation and verbal and physical aggression are symptoms of dementia. Behavioral changes may worsen as the disease progresses. Social and mentally challenging settings especially give rise to symptoms. Other triggers include the senior’s perceived loss of control, environmental factors, fear, and fatigue.
Calm an agitated senior by reducing noise (such as the radio or television), the number of people and clutter in her immediate environment. Establish routines, which promote structure. Caregivers should allow the senior to remain as independent as possible, and express understanding toward frustration.
6. Ease Paranoia
Also prevalent during the middle stages of dementia are paranoia, increased suspicion, and delusions. These unsettling internal experiences are real to the dementia patient, even if they are without basis. Understand that these emotions are due to the disease and avoid taking accusations personally.
When items are “missing,” help the senior look for them rather than argue. While investigating lost objects with the senior, distract the individual with a different activity. A senior who is confused is likely to keep a secret hiding place, where all the “lost” objects end up.
7. Encourage Nutrition
Seniors with dementia may forget to eat and drink. Dental problems or medications can discourage eating. In the late stages of dementia, seniors may have physical changes that make swallowing difficult. Inadequate vitamin and nutrient intakes aggravate health issues and lead to inadvertent weight loss.
Support the independent consumption of meals. Cut foods into bite-size pieces. Include a straw or sippy cup if holding a tumbler is challenging. Lightly stroke the senior’s throat to encourage swallowing. Join the senior during mealtimes, as doing so prompts the individual to mimic the caregiver’s eating actions.
A senior may experience dementia for a number of years. Well-intentioned families may be unable to provide ongoing support to an elderly loved one on a continual basis, making home care agencies, like Assisting Hands Home Care, important. Services include respite care, 24-hour home care and hospice care at home.
Assisting Hands Home Care provides compassionate dementia care to seniors struggling with this progressive brain disease. Our memory care services are comprehensive, and include a range of personal care services, like assistance with bathing, eating, toileting, dressing and medication reminders.
Suffering from dementia can be an isolating and lonely experience. Assisting Hands Home Care services reduce the sting of isolation. Our memory care providers offer pleasant companionship to care recipients. Caregivers also provide transportation to senior centers and doctor’s offices.
Assisting Hands Home Care Alzheimer’s and dementia care services are available to seniors living in the surrounding communities of Dallas, Fort Worth, and Richardson, Texas. Start a dignified care process by consulting our reputable senior care agency. We’ll develop a personalized care plan to fully support your elderly loved one.