According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million people in the United States are living with a form of dementia. In 2013, an army of more than 15.5 million people provided about 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for someone with dementia. Taking care of someone with dementia is extremely challenging. Here are five tips to make providing this care easier.
1. Allow Participation in a Consistent Routine
Create a consistent daily routine and allow the individual with dementia to participate in chores to the best of his ability. Everyone likes to feel needed, including those with dementia. Activity and structure optimizes the quality of life for the person with the disease; activity gives him an opportunity to perform familiar tasks, like bathing then preparing breakfast, while structure helps him remember the order in which he is to perform these jobs. Dementia is often progressive, especially in Alzheimer’s disease, so you should expect a decline in his ability to perform even simple chores or perform them at the appropriate time.
2. Use the “Five Rs”
As dementia progresses, you can also expect significant changes in the individual’s personality. Often, these changes include increased aggression and confrontation. To diffuse the situation, remember the Five Rs:
- Remain calm
- Respond by validating your loved one’s feelings
- Reassure your loved one that you still love her
- Remove yourself from the location long enough to regain your composure
- Return when your loved one has calmed down
3. Encourage Verbal Skills
As dementia progresses, your loved one may lose his ability to communicate. Encourage activities that improve verbal skills, such as listening to music or reading poems. In addition to strengthening verbal skills, communication and interaction provide a pathway between you and the person you care for.
4. Participate in Family Therapy
Family therapy gives every member of your family behavioral mental health tools they can use to make living with dementia easier. Family or group therapy often includes dementia screening and treatment for older adults alongside counseling and support services for the people who take care of them. Therapy sessions also give everyone a safe place to voice opinions and express feelings.
5. Take Care of the Caregiver
Devote time to your own physical, social, spiritual and mental health – you cannot provide adequate care if you are unhealthy. Your role as a caregiver can deplete your stores of energy and patience. Eat a stress-reducing diet; Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends a high fiber diet filled with fruits and vegetables to reduce stress. Exercise regularly and go out with friends occasionally. Participate in family therapy to equip yourself with special dementia caregiver tools.