Caring for People with Dementia
Tips for Caring for Someone with Dementia
If you are in the early stages of dementia, here are things you can do to make your life easier. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use a reminder calendar. Check off activities when you have completed them. A calendar can reduce anxiety about forgetting things.
- Set up a calm, stable home environment. This will prevent stress from distracting noise or pressure to do things.
- Work with your family and doctor to create a plan for the future. See the list below for suggestions concerning what should be in the plan.
- Join a support group. Keep a journal about your feelings and experiences. Get counseling if necessary. Talk with your church, synagogue or mosque concerning spiritual needs.
Create a Plan
- What is the expected long-term outcome and what is your doctor's plan for treatment?
- What kind of living arrangements will work for you and your family?
- If you stay at home, will you need support for meals, hygiene and taking medicine?
- Is driving still feasible and if not, what back up plan do you need?
- What assistance can you take advantage of from adult care centers and in-home nursing agencies? See information below to locate such services.
- What about legal issues? Do you have a living will and power of attorney for health care and financial decisions?
The disease will evolve over time and it may be necessary to revisit the plan and revise it.
Caring for Someone with Dementia
Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging. Here are several tips for successful caregiving:
- Establish a daily routine.
- Set a positive mood. Always speak in a positive and respectful manner. Be patient and maintain a sense of humor.
- Limit distractions and noise. Turn off the TV and radio.
- Use simple, direct language. Speak slowly and distinctly. Don't raise your voice. If necessary, repeat your words or rephrase your sentence.
- Ask simple questions rather than open ended ones. If offering a choice, use a visual cue whenever possible such as a choice of shirts.
- Break down activities into simple steps. Provide assistance only if necessary. Visual cues are always helpful.
- Be reassuring and don't argue about whether something they have said or done is wrong. Use praise for what has been done correctly.
- People with dementia may experience what is called sundowners syndrome. They tend to become restless as night approaches. Engage them in regular exercise during the day to reduce restlessness. Turn down the lights in the evening and play soothing music if it is helpful.
- If wandering is a problem, make sure locks are in proper order and use them. You may need to move them to a place where they are out of reach. Consider using a GPS device to locate someone who becomes lost. Give them a photo ID with information on whom to contact if they are lost. Provide a medical alert bracelet if necessary. Discuss the situation with neighbors and the local police.
- If incontinence (toileting) is a problem, set up a routine. Take them to the bathroom every 2 hours. Schedule fluid intake for early in the day and avoid caffeine at night. Use night lights.
- Paranoia (fearfulness) can be a problem. If they are worried about money, allow them to keep a small amount of money in a pocket for reassurance. Reassure them and use a gentle touch or hug. You might want to say something like, "I see you are frightened. I won't let anything happen to you."
- People may lose interest in or forget about eating and drinking. Make meals and snacks part of a regular routine. Provide several small meals during the day rather than three large meals. Use finger foods and straws to make self-feeding easier. Cut food into small pieces or provide soft foods.
- Prepare for bathing in advance. Keep warm towels and a robe at the ready. Draw water ahead of time. Use safety features such as non-slip floor mats and grab bars. Never leave someone with dementia alone in the shower or tub. If bathing is difficult, consider sponge baths.
- Dressing can be difficult. Lay out clothes in the order they will be put on. Avoid zippers and buttons. Take advantage of Velcro and snap closures.
- Visit the Family Caregiver Alliance for additional information at http://www.caregiver.org. Visit http://www.bathingwithoutabattle.unc.edu for tips on making bathing easier.
- Encourage people with dementia to continue their normal activities and hobbies as long as it is safe and not frustrating.
- Mental and social stimulation are important. Encourage them to play cards and engage in crafts, games, reading, writing and music.
- Daily exercise such as walking is important. Other activities include swimming and dancing.
- Take advantage of community adult care programs.
Caring for someone with dementia can be difficult. Be sure to take advantage of services that will lighten your load. Here are some ideas:
- Learn as much as you can about the disease.
- Ask friends and family for support when you need it.
- Take care of your own health.
- Take advantage of available services such as adult care and in-home nursing. See the section below on how to find such services.
- Join a support group.
You can find information for local support organizations by contacting Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or by visiting their web site at http://www.eldercare.gov. Another resource is the National Alliance for Caregiving (http://www.caregiving.org).
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease, contact the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR) for more information about the disease and caregiving resources. You can contact ADEAR at 1-800-438-4380 or by visiting the web site at http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers.