At Choices in Senior Care, my job as a nurse involves constant interaction with many different clients, families and professionals. I want to share a few tips that I think may be helpful to keep in mind when you’re caring for a loved one that’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Dementia is a terminally progressive illness, and the role you play as a caregiver can go on for a while. This role can be difficult and challenging at times, but please know that help is available to you. Here are a few tips
- Memory goes from short term to long term in most situations. For example: One will forget the names of grandchildren, children, spouse, and then parents. You may often feel like you tell them the same things over and over again.
- Manners are taught, so eventually social skills can be lost too. Don’t be surprised if your loved one begins to do or say things in public that they may have never done in the past.
- Things may be familiar throughout the day, but every day will be new. Routines are a must.
- Make life simple. Instead of asking mom or dad if they would like their favorite drink just hand them the cup with the drink in it. Try not to ask what restaurant they want to eat at, instead just go to the one you know they like.
- Avoid memory-linked language. For example: “Remember when…”, or “I’ve told you that before” can be confusing to your loved one, and may cause more aggravation. Simply continue to answer the questions over and over.
- Behaviors may become more self-centered or random.
- There is no “winning an argument or disagreement” when speaking with someone affected by Alzheimer’s or Dementia. If needed, quietly walk out of the room, find something to do and go back in a little while. Chances are he or she may forget the discussion ever happened.
- You should avoid bargaining or negotiating.
- Your loved one may become impulsive or make poor choices. You must assume responsibility for their safety at all times.
- Your loved one may lose concept of time and most relationships.
- Your loved one will have difficulty staying on task, and may become distracted. You will need to be direct you’re your instructions and give them one at a time.
- Your loved one will need security, calmness, and reassurance. Use the phrase “I will keep you safe” in times of fear.
- Lastly, please know that you will make mistakes. We all do. This is a learning process for all, and everyone with Alzheimer’s or dementia is different. There is no exact time table of when things will happen.
If you do make a mistake, tomorrow will be a brand new day.
By Casey Rausin Lane, RN