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Guidance for Caring for a Loved One with Dementia

When your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you will naturally and quite understandably go through a range of emotions.

The first and most important thing to know when taking on the sensitive and complicated responsibility of caring for a loved one with dementia is you must ensure your own emotional and physical needs are taken care of. 

Like the often-referenced emergency card the stewardess references on a flight, you must take care of your own needs before you are sufficiently able to help someone else’s with theirs. 

The 7 Stages of Dementia

The term dementia is essentially used to depict a set of specific symptoms which involve problems with cognitive memory, communication, and logical thinking. 

Medically speaking, there are seven recognized stages in a person suffering from dementia: 

Stage 1: No cognitive decline

Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline

Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline

Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline

Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline

Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline (otherwise known as ‘middle dementia’)

Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline (otherwise known as ‘late dementia’)

It is exceedingly pertinent to note that no two people suffering from dementia display the exact same symptoms, and moreover, some people may skip stages or even switch back and forth between the different recognized stages. Additionally, the rate of the progression of the disease is entirely specific and unique to the individual. 

How to Communicate Effectively

As your loved one’s dementia progresses, whether that be steadily over time or more quickly, it is vitally important for both you and your loved one to strive to maintain open communication channels for as long as possible.

It is more than likely that, as the disease progresses, your loved one’s ability to present and communicate logical thoughts and rational ideas will diminish, and their conversations are likely to become more and more disjointed and hard to follow.

Your loved one’s ability to process information quickly and effectively will also diminish as they advance through the progressive stages of the disease, as well as their communicative responses becoming delayed and fragmented.

When communicating with a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, you need to be as patient as possible and endeavor not to fluster or stress your loved one by asking too many questions all at once.  Ensure your tone and pitch are as level as possible and talk slowly and clearly. 

If your loved one has stopped actively starting conversations, or when they do, their questions seem surreally disconnected, there are several proven to be effective ways of encouraging communication and conversation. These include:

  • Allowing them time to respond with absolutely no pressure from you
  • Never patronize them and never ridicule what they say, however random or surreal
  • Rephrase your question if they do not understand and be patient with their answers
  • Maintain eye contact and even hold their hand when talking to them
  • Encourage conversations between your loved ones and others in the room
  • Avoid complicated options and choices when asking them questions

Encourage Independence Wherever Possible

For a person suffering from memory illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the individual is likely to become intensely frustrated with themselves as the disease progresses.

Many people with Alzheimer’s find the use of a smartphone helpful in documenting their daily activities or, more traditionally, keeping a notepad and a packet of pens with them at all times.

Smartphones can significantly help loved ones retain as much independence as possible, and such devices offer a range of apps such as a reminder function and an alarm clock with editable labels. 

Striving to maintain your loved one’s independence for as long as possible directly correlates with maintaining their quality of life. A substantial and proven to be an effective way to promote independence if your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is to arrange regular physiotherapy with a qualified professional

Physiotherapists can significantly assist in reducing the burden of care and can provide individual, tailored strategies to encourage your loved one’s independence as safely and for as long as possible.

They can also help if there are danger signs present regarding mobility and general difficulties in completing daily tasks and activities.

Warning signs regarding the mobility capability of your loved one include visibly smaller, shuffling steps, uncoordinated movement, walking into furniture, a reluctance to use stairs, and a general unsteadiness on their feet.

Warning signs regarding hidden and concealed pain from your loved one include tense body language, rigid movements, teeth clenching, eyes tightly shut and loud, sudden and emotional outbursts. 

Memory Care Assisted Living Facilities

At the point whereby your loved one is no longer able to live independently, there are a plethora of options to ensure their safety, security, and wellbeing. For persons suffering from memory illnesses, however, by far the best choice is to move them to a memory care-specific assisted living facility.

Communities such as the professional and established memory care Brick NJ provide twenty-four-hour medically trained professionals onsite to assist as little or as much as your loved one needs with their day-to-day activities. 

There are a plethora of advantages to your loved one residing in memory care assisted living facility, one of the largest being the opportunity for residents to spend time with others, develop friendships, and embark on activities and outings that are run and supervised by the facility itself.

Engaging activities such as painting, craft mornings, music-making, and service projects will ensure your loved one’s socialization levels are maintained. 

Memory care assisted living facilities to create specialized and individual care and medical treatment plans for each one of the residents, and their approach is wholly person-centered.

Detailed assessments of each resident are undertaken prior to their moving to the facility, and you can rest assured knowing your loved one is being cared for by medically trained professionals in a safe, secure, and relaxed environment.

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