It can feel daunting to take on the role of dementia caregiver, especially if you are new to caregiving in general. However, with the right research, knowledge, and mindset, you can ensure that you create a positive and engaging environment for your family member and can provide the best dementia care possible.
Whatever stage of the caregiving process you’re in, HarborChase Senior Living has created this guide to help share insight on what you should and shouldn’t do as you navigate the delicate yet fulfilling experience of dementia care.
Do: Research and Understand Dementia
Caring for someone with dementia has its challenges, especially for those who are not very familiar with the condition, its symptoms, or its progression. If a close family member has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the first thing to do is educate yourself on it. Make sure that you’re aware of how the symptoms may progress over time, and research tools and strategies for best care approaches.
There are countless online resources for dementia care, including helpful guides, long-term care options, and caregiver support. Some helpful resources include The Alzheimer’s Association, Family Caregiver Alliance, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Don’t: Get Frustrated or Take Things Personally
Alzheimer’s and related dementias can cause mood swings, anger, and confusion—which could potentially lead to the individual to say mean or hurtful comments. While this can be upsetting, it’s important not to take personal offense. In these situations, it can be easy to get frustrated and openly angry, but this is not productive.
Those living with dementia don’t have control over their emotions or behavior, and as a dementia caregiver, it’s important to remind yourself of this when things get stressful. If you find yourself getting frustrated, try physically calming down by taking deep breaths, and then try to access the situation from a new perspective. These few simple changes can change your mindset, give you patience, and protect your relationship as a caregiver.
Do: Develop a Predictable Routine
Having a consistent day-to-day routine can ensure that things run smoothly for both you and your family member. For those living with dementia, familiar routines and schedules can be valuable in reducing anxieties and confusion and maintaining certain cognitive and physical functions.
By keeping a consistent schedule of when it’s time to wake up, eat, go outside, and more, you can provide a sense of structure and expectation. If your family member doesn’t seem to understand the routine, try using a combination of visual and auditory cues with gentle reminders.
Don’t: Use Patronizing Language or Confusing Questions
When communicating with your family member with dementia, make sure to use clear, concise, and respectful language. Try to use easy-to-understand phrases that won’t confuse or frustrate your family member.
It’s also important to speak with your family member with respect and dignity. Even if they may not understand all that you are saying, don’t talk down to them using patronizing language or a “baby voice.” Include them in as many conversations and decisions as possible, as this fosters their independence and dignity.
Do: Encourage a Fun and Stimulating Environment
Despite what you may think, dementia care doesn’t have to be tedious and stiff; it can also be fun! It’s vital to ensure that your family member is getting enough stimulation and socialization through sensory activities and experiences. Some examples of stimulating (and fun) activities include:
- Baking cookies or another simple recipe together
- Painting or decorating an arts and crafts project
- Creating a memory box with photos and keepsakes
- Going on a walk through a botanical garden
- Trying a new jigsaw puzzle together
Don’t: Feel Like You Are Alone
As a dementia caregiver, sometimes you may feel in over your head or isolated from other friends and family. It’s important to remember that no matter what, you are not alone. Don’t feel afraid to reach out to family or friends if you need a break, advice, or simply someone to listen. By reaching out for support, you can become a stronger caregiver.
In addition to family and friends, there are many programs and services dedicated to dementia care. HarborChase Senior Living, with communities across the country, offers dementia care programs specifically designed to aid individuals in every stage of the condition, from Mild Dementia Care to more focused Memory Care.
Our memory care program establishes customized plans of care to ensure that each residents’ needs and wants are met in an engaging and compassionate environment. We are committed to providing exceptional care to our residents while providing peace of mind to their families and caregivers.
If you are interested in learning more about our memory care programs at HarborChase Senior Living, we encourage you to contact a member of our team today.