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Tips for Caring for a Senior with Dementia
Dementia is a debilitating disease affecting 1 in 7 American adults over the age of 71. When a loved one has dementia, they require extra care and monitoring. While being a caregiver for a loved one is rewarding, it can also be overwhelming and stressful. When caring for a senior with dementia, consider these tips.
Every Day Care
Dementia can cause behavioral changes, memory issues, and impaired decision-making, which can make daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, self-care, bathing, and more difficult. As the disease progresses, your loved one may need additional guidance. Here’s how you can help:
- Keep a routine by bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time daily.
- Use notes to remind your loved one of where things are or when to take medications.
- Keep important items in designated places. For example, keep medications in the bathroom and keys next to the door.
- Help your loved one write a to-do list for the day, week, or month, and help them complete the items on their list.
- When dressing or bathing, only step in when needed. Allow your loved one to do as much as they can – this can help them maintain as much of their independence as possible, for as long as possible.
- When helping your loved one with a task, explain each action step by step instead of solely doing it for them. Verbal communication can help your loved one recognize the situation and how to complete the task.
When caring for a senior with dementia, communication can be a huge obstacle, as dementia gradually diminishes a person’s ability to communicate. You may notice your loved one having difficulty finding the right words, repeating things, easily losing their train of thought, or speaking less often. You must be patient and understanding and have good listening skills. To improve communication:
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Take time to let your loved one express their thoughts, feelings, and needs.
- Give your loved one time to respond when you speak to them.
- Ask yes or no questions rather than open-ended questions.
- Ask them what they need help with before doing things for them.
- If they get agitated or seem angry, approach the situation calmly – do not argue, disagree, or take it personally.
- Ask one question at a time.
- Engage your loved one in one-on-one conversations in a quiet space and eliminate distractions.
- Maintain eye contact so your loved one knows you are focused on them and engaged in the conversation.
Participate in Activities
As dementia progresses, your loved one may not be able to participate in activities they once enjoyed. However, staying active can be extremely beneficial. Research shows that spending time with a person who has Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia creates a lasting, positive impact, and there are certain activities that are proven to benefit those with dementia. When caring for a senior with dementia, work these activities into their daily routine:
- When the weather permits, go outside. Gardening, going for a walk, or heading to a park can help boost their mood and keep them active.
- Play board games or help them with puzzles.
- Listen to your loved one’s favorite music or watch a favorite movie or TV show from their past.
- Look at family photos together and identify those in them. Try creating a collage or scrapbook.
- Introduce simple chores like washing dishes or sweeping floors.
- Organize household items found in cluttered areas like a pantry or junk drawer.
Know When to Get Help
Caring for a senior with dementia can be extremely challenging – but you don’t have to do it alone. Grand Oaks’ award-winning Oasis Neighborhood offers personalized memory care, including medication monitoring and hands-on assistance with daily activities, responsive care from an on-site nursing team, life-enriching activities, socialization with other residents, and more, as well as a nurturing and peaceful environment to help keep your loved one calm. Learn more.