According to the World Health Organization, more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide. Alarmingly, almost 10 million people are diagnosed with this condition every year. Classified as a syndrome, dementia typically progresses and leads to cognitive challenges, such as memory loss, lapses in comprehension, judgment impairment, and a diminished capacity to learn and communicate.
If a loved one shows these signs, prompt, professional attention is critical. The Alzheimer’s Association says:
“Many conditions are progressive, which means that the signs of dementia start out slowly and gradually get worse. If you or someone you know is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don’t ignore them.”
As a caregiver of a family member with dementia, you may be struggling with how to best help your loved one. Below are some tips on providing support and care for people living with dementia.
Create a Safe Environment
Because a person with dementia has trouble solving problems, injuries can be common. These can happen in homes where obstacles are present. To reduce the risk of injuries such as falls, you need to ensure that the home is free of any clutter that may impede a person’s mobility. Make sure that there are handrails available as much as possible. It’s also best to avoid rugs, as these are a severe tripping hazard.
A person with dementia may mistakenly use hot water instead of cold water. Turning down the temperature on the water heater can minimize the risk of burns. You should also lock cabinets and pantries containing medication, household cleaners, and other dangerous chemicals and products.
People with dementia can have trouble expressing themselves making it difficult for their caregivers to understand their needs. But there are various ways to connect with them. Speak slowly, use simple words, and ask yes or no questions to make it easier for them to respond. Let them take their time when speaking, and give them your full attention.
You can also use physical touch and body language to convey a message. As stated in a study published by the National Institute of Health:
“…using an approach based around the nonverbal aspects of communication, i.e. sounds, movements, facial expressions, etc.—has the potential to keep people with advanced dementia in the social world.”
A common problem that dementia patients and their caregivers encounter is wandering. A person with dementia may feel bored or confused and simply wander off from his or her home or room. This can lead to safety concerns. To reduce these issues, you can install locks on doors or put “stop” or “do not enter” signs in various areas. Your loved one should wear an identification bracelet with relevant contact information.
People with dementia can have a hard time focusing and concentrating. This hinders communication and making connections. To alleviate this, work hard to eliminate any outside distractions. Turn off the TV and shut the curtains or blinds. Look directly into your loved one’s eyes when you speak. Never raise your voice or show signs of being upset. Use the person’s name often and talk about things they can relate to, such as hobbies and family.
Proper dementia care requires attention, patience, and love. Apply these practices in your daily interactions with the person you care for. As you do so, you can help to improve your family member’s quality of life as they live with the effects of dementia.