Dementia can be exhausting, not just to the person diagnosed with the disease but to those around them as well. Dementia often feels like you’re constantly swimming against the tide with no end in sight. One of the hardest things for friends and family is the pain of watching a loved one slowly slip away.
But avoiding individuals with dementia is not the answer: in fact, the Alzheimer’s Society insists that family members spend more time with loved ones who’re living with dementia. Spending time with someone who has dementia positively impacts the person; it stimulates feelings of familiarity and happiness, for example. If you know a friend or relative who has been diagnosed with dementia, here’s how you can help them:
Help Them Communicate:
Dementia patients become frustrated and confused when trying to make sense of the things around them. Don’t correct them if they’re confused about names, places, or dates—this is not uncommon. It’s important to make sure they’re interacting rather than emotionally withdrawing from everyone. Discuss their interests to keep them engaged; maybe talk about a hobby or activity they like. Jog them down memory lane and help them remember happy moments. Sometimes they may not be in the mood to communicate; when this is the case, ask strictly yes or no questions—open-ended questions tend to aggravate sensitive dementia patients.
Help Them Socialize:
Dementia needn’t be a lonely journey. A recent study found that spending less than ten minutes a day with a relative suffering with dementia can substantially improve their quality of life. It makes them less agitated and restless. If you live in another city and cannot visit the person every day, arrange for a home healthcare companion to visit the patient regularly. The companion could drive your loved one to church or the local community center, and they can take your loved one grocery shopping. A nursing assistant could even help with light housekeeping.
When interacting with a person who has dementia, you will have to be careful about when and where you socialize. This is especially true for sundowners—individuals that experience disorientation and confusion in the late afternoon and after dusk.
Help Them Maintain a Routine:
Daily routines provide a sense of comfort for everyone. To those diagnosed with dementia, a daily routine helps avoid confusion. Embracing a routine ensures familiarity—your loved one will take comfort in familiar people and familiar environments. As the disease worsens, people with dementia find it difficult to plan and complete activities. Establishing a predictable routine prevents a person from becoming distracted and forgetful, and a routine as well create a sense of calm. Routines can also help dementia patients stay safe. When devising a schedule, remember to factor in important things like medication reminders, meal times, exercise times, and bathroom breaks. Your loved one may be able to make their own routine at first, but you may want to hire an in-home healthcare assistant for help as the condition progresses.
By Robert Johnson
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