The following tips from carers can help reduce stress and help you cope with everyday challenges:
1. Arguing with someone who has dementia is just not worth it
It’s so easy to get drawn in and angry with someone who has dementia. You may try to get them to see things differently and challenge them. This often is worse when the person is a family member or close friend.
Try to remember that dementia actually changes brain function. Arguing will only increase frustration for both of you, it’s just not worth it.
2. Don’t ignore the symptoms, it won’t change anything
In the early stages of dementia, many people hope that the symptoms will just go away and try to ignore them. Being in denial that there is a problem may make things better for you in the short term, but it can delay the diagnosis of other conditions that look like dementia but are treatable, as well as delay diagnosis and treatment of true dementia. Medications can delay early progression.
3. Too many medications can make someone more confused
Review all medication that someone is taking as dementia may affect how they interact with the body. Sometimes certain prescriptions may not be required anymore. Even vitamins and supplements can affect how medications work. Too many drugs can make someone disorientated and confused.
4. Acknowledging ‘their reality’ can really help them
People living with dementia often experience a different reality than we do. They may call out repeatedly for people that are no longer with us or insist that they have to go to work, even though they’ve been retired for many years.
Instead of being irritated and reminding your loved one of what is true, stopping and asking them to tell you about their mother or about their job has been shown to improve comfort, and reduce agitation.
Try to see things their way than convince them to see it from your perspective. Go along with what they are saying and then maybe move on to something else.
5. Improving brain health, even later in life, can make a difference
Sometimes, people feel that after a loved one receives a diagnosis of dementia, it’s too late to do anything about it.
Instead, remember that while true dementia won’t go away and generally is progressive, there are still a lot of strategies that can be used to maintain and even improve brain health and function for a time in dementia. Physical exercise, mental activity, and meaningful activities can go a long way toward maintaining functioning and providing purpose in daily life.
6. Share the challenges you face, it helps
Many carers are understandably exhausted and may ignore their tiredness as they may feel like their fatigue doesn’t matter anyway because they have a job to do.
Try to find out about home healthcare services, adult day care facilities, respite care, and support. Knowing you are not alone can be very reassuring.
If you need help and need some respite do call TrustonTap.
7. Prioritise some of your needs, when you can
The risk of carer burnout is real. Carers don’t need to feel guilty or frustrated because they don’t have time or energy to exercise, smile, eat right, and get lots of sleep. Most carers are well aware these are things they should do but just don’t have the time. The last thing they need is another list of things they should be doing.
Instead, what caregivers need to remember is that doing even one little thing for themselves is important and beneficial.
Practical ideas from dementia caregivers who have been there including a 30-minute visit from a friend, 20 minutes of quiet time or listening to your favourite music.
8. Focus on what is really important
Don’t try to be great at everything, learning to let go of pressures and expectations will improve your overall health.
9. Have the difficult conversations about medical decisions and choices
It can, understandably, be very hard to think about an uncertain future after a dementia diagnosis. You may need some time to absorb and process the information.
However, instead of avoiding the uncomfortable conversation about medical decisions and power of attorney documents, take the time to discuss these important choices. Have that talk with your loved one who has dementia sooner rather than later.
10. Don’t forget they cannot control their behaviour
A carer or family member may prefer to think that a loved one is being stubborn, rather than the fact that they have dementia. You may then feel they’re choosing to dig their heels in and just being difficult. You may feel like they have “selective memory problems” or that they’re just trying to provoke you or make your day difficult by not getting dressed to go to a doctor’s appointment.
Dementia can affect personality, behaviour, decision-making, and judgment. They’re not just being stubborn or manipulative; they also have a disease that can sometimes control their behaviour and emotions.
11. 20 minutes later can feel like a whole new day
Sometimes, loved ones with dementia can become anxious, agitated, and combative while you’re helping them with their activities of daily living. For example, perhaps you’re trying to encourage your mother to brush her teeth and she’s pushing you away and yelling at you.
Take some time out and ensure their safety and maybe go to a different room for 20 minutes. Trying again later may be much easier and not a big deal. It may not work but it’s worth a try.
12. It is possible to have a quality of life with dementia
Coping with a diagnosis of dementia is often not easy. Thinking that life will be terrible isn’t going to help but it will be different.
Instead, listen to others who’ve been there, who acknowledge the challenges.‘What I Wish I Knew About Dementia’ by Wendy Mitchell gives first-hand advice and anecdotes about her experiences, and how it has affected her loved ones. Rather than focusing on the biology and clinical scenarios, her focus is on the many things that you can still do after a dementia diagnosis.