Caring for someone who suffers from dementia can be overwhelming. People suffering from dementia often need help with everyday tasks, like bathing or dressing. While it is difficult to watch a beloved family member deal with loss of memory and their independence, there are ways to cope and make life for caregivers a little easier.
One common issue among dementia patients is the loss of ability to understand “why”, and reason with their emotions. This can cause family members and caregivers to become frustrated and get upset easily. People living with dementia cannot control their moods and tend to misinterpret our body language and the things we say, leading them to become upset and lash out at loved ones.
Imagine not being able to effectively communicate with someone how you are feeling, or are struggling to remember someone that was once so familiar to you, that is daily life for a person living with dementia.
If you see someone with dementia struggling and becoming angry, remember to reassure them and maintain eye contact, even if things are getting tense. Stay relaxed and avoid showing any sign of negativity, as it can help keep a person with dementia calm and prevent them from becoming aggressive or angry.
Managing the Desire to Eat, or Not to Eat
Dementia can impair parts of the brain that respond to taste and smell, preventing a person from enjoying foods they once loved. As a result, they may lose interest in food all together and stop eating, leading to severe weight loss. Other patients see a dramatic increase in their weight due to overeating as a result of not remembering when their last meal was.
For those who struggle to eat, giving them the ability to choose what foods they would like to eat may encourage their appetite. Present them with some healthy options and let them make the decision. This allows them to maintain a sense of control.
What Else Can I Expect?
Other issues caregivers see in people with dementia is they begin to hoard, rummage, and hide items. Mail, cabinets, drawers, even trash cans are common places they will rummage or hide things. Keep any toxic items locked away, and trash can lids secured, as they may forget its purpose and start taking trash out or throw personal items away.
Restlessness and trouble sleeping is also common, causing some who remain awake long into the night to wander and end up outside. Keep doors securely locked at night, and consider setting up motion sensor lights and reflective tape along walkways to avoid tripping hazards.
Make Yourself a Priority Too
More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care to someone suffering from dementia. Caring for someone with dementia can take a big physical and emotional toll. If your self-care suffers, then the person you are caring for will suffer as well.
If you enjoy exercising, try incorporating a nice walk outside with the person you are caring for, or take them out for your favorite ice cream treat. Ask for help from friends or family when needed, or take advantage of local services for additional support. Caring for someone can be very rewarding, but challenging, so don’t forget to make yourself a priority when you can.