Dementia is a progressive, irreversible condition caused by damage to brain cells. Specific diseases, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, provoke the onset of dementia. In the US, statistics reveal that nearly 5.3 million people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia. Vascular dementia, which is spurred by a stroke, is the next most commonplace cause of dementia.
The stages of dementia progress from mild to moderate to severe. Mild dementia involves difficulty with memory, including recalling names or struggling to find words. Emotions are affected, as seniors begin to experience sadness, depression and loss of interest in activities that once stimulated them.
As a progressive condition, dementia eventually spirals into the next stage: moderate dementia. Seniors are unable to physically commit to routine hygiene practices. Poor judgment and inappropriate language are often seen in people with moderate dementia. Elderly individuals begin to wander when dementia progresses to the moderate stage.
Around the clock care is necessary when dementia reaches its severest stage. Seniors with severe dementia suffer extensive memory loss. Affected individuals are unable to recognize family members and those closest to them. The condition causes a loss of physical mobility. Bladder control issues and problems with eating or swallowing follow.
Attention During the Early Stages
Seniors experiencing the early stages of dementia may be relatively independent, with the ability to walk, bathe, drive and work. After the initial diagnosis of dementia, it is an opportune time for the senior and family members to discuss long-term care plans as well as financial and legal matters.
Individuals with mild dementia may start to research available treatment options; they might consider participating in clinical trials; and family caregivers and the affected senior are likely to benefit from local support services.
At home, consider if safety is a potential issue, especially if the senior lives alone. Offer supervision if necessary. Limit stressful situations. If the individual living with mild dementia has trouble grocery shopping, for instance, help the loved one create a list and meal plan for the week.
Experts recommend assuming that the senior is capable of handling tasks independently. If frustration arises, try to determine the source and intervene as needed.
Mutually develop a signal for help, like a word or gesture. Caregivers might ask, “Can I help?” or nod to acknowledge difficulties when a senior struggles to find words, for instance.
As a caregiver, plan healthy meals for your loved one. Studies have shown physical exercise helps seniors better tolerate the early stages of dementia. Establish daily routines that encourage quality sleep.
Work as a team with the senior to construct a helpful plan that addresses their present needs, while focusing on the individual’s strengths. Check in regularly to ensure that a comfortable level of care is being provided.
Support Through the Middle Stages
Dementia, in its middle stages, makes living independently more challenging. The middle stages of dementia last the longest. At this point in the condition, the senior is likely to have difficulty bathing, and finding words. Individuals might unexpectedly act out due to personality changes and become extremely frustrated or angry.
Seniors enduring the middle stages of dementia have trouble communicating. As a caregiver, speak slowly and distinctly to help improve communication. Any sudden changes in communication should be reported immediately to the doctor, since such events may indicate medical problems.
Daily care is a struggle in the middle stages of dementia. It is important to help the senior remain as independent as possible. Laying out clothes is an indirect way to help a senior with dressing. Wandering and agitation can be effectively managed by participating in activities the senior may enjoy. Take walks with the senior, cook meals together or help out with gardening.
The middle stages of dementia make living alone unsafe. The senior is advised to move in with family or enter a residential facility. Driving, too, is unsafe during these middle stages. Openly talk with the senior to let them know rides will be provided as often as needed.
Extensive Care at the Late Stage
An individual suffering from the late stages of dementia will eventually lose the ability to talk, eat, walk or perform daily hygiene independently. Caregivers can still connect with seniors through the senses. Examples of soothing, sensory activities include sitting outside together on a sunny day, traveling down memory lane via photo albums or reading the senior’s favorite passages of a good book out loud.
Late-stage dementia necessitates help with eating. Choose soft foods to help the senior chew and swallow easily. Keep the senior in an upright position for 30 minutes after meals to help with digestion.
Provide assistance with bowel and bladder functions by limiting liquids before bed. Avoid dehydration by ensuring the senior drinks enough liquids throughout the day. Disposable adult briefs and bed padding are useful, especially at night.
A senior’s limited physical mobility is likely to cause pressure sores, especially if the individual is bedridden. The senior’s position should be shifted every two hours to improve blood circulation. A nurse can offer instructions on how to properly lift the senior to avoid injury. Pillows and pads protect the senior’s hips, elbows and heels.
Seniors who live with dementia will require dementia care. The late stages, especially, necessitate continual, extensive care and may require entering a facility. Until then, families have the option to hire compassionate in-home caregivers who are knowledgeable in caring for seniors with dementia. Assisting Hands Home Care is a licensed, bonded and insured home care agency with a staff of well-trained elder care aides skilled in dementia care.
Assisting Hands Home Care caregivers provide non-medical, professional dementia care, including socialization to help improve mood. Wandering is limited by caregivers, who ensure access doors are locked and seniors avoid obstacles at home that could lead to falls and injury. Caregivers assist with eating, bathing and personal hygiene. Seniors also receive reminders to take their medications. The Assisting Hands Home Care team is dedicated to compassionately serving the needs of the elderly living with dementia.