Living with a Family Member with Dementia
Understanding the Disease
There are many misconceptions surrounding Dementia. A majority of people don’t understand the full scope encompassing the disease. It can bring unnecessary grief to a family if it is not approached properly. With some education, many families can transition into a life of unity and balance. Providing caregivers with specific details regarding dementia can help expectations for everyone involved.
Dementia is a symptom of a more complex disease or disorder. There is no way that it can be transmitted like a virus, nor is it contagious. There is always an underlying reason that produces the characteristics that encompass dementia. Some of the conditions that precede Dementia:
- Head Injuries
- Vascular Dementia (narrowing of blood vessels)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Numerous Strokes
- Brain Tumors
- Thyroid Disease
- Liver Disease
- Brain Infection
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Kidney Disease
Some of the conditions listed above that produce a limited form of dementia. This can be modified or even recovered with approaches like physical therapy, medications and time. Some types of dementia are too regressive, so the likelihood of any regeneration are slim. In the case where your loved one fits in the degenerative dementia diagnosis, it is recommended to provide a comfortable living situation and allow the time for your loved one to be as enjoyable as possible. In this case, you would need to plan accordingly to accommodate dementia while it is in a manageable state.
Sources of Discomfort
Much of the discomfort caused by dementia patients is primarily one of agitation. When a patient experiences agitation, their behavior can become violent. As a caregiver, it is typical to feel somehow responsible for this behavior – just be sure not to allow a guilty frame of mind to take over, as it only adds more stress to the situation. Remind yourself that agitation is often stemming from one or multiple sources such as a medical or physical issue. Some experiences that initiate an agitation episode:
- Changes in environment or routine
- Lack of sleep
- Hunger or thirst
- Medications that can cause aggression and agitation
- Being too cool or warm
- Impending medical procedures
- Poor communication
Knowing the triggers that create frustration can diffuse unnecessary violent encounters. Taking careful consideration of the person’s daily or weekly routines such as medical requirements and social needs can redirect many of the problems before they begin.
While getting acclimated to the caregiving relationship with the dementia patient, you can use this opportunity to pick up cues to the discomfort. When you start to see those cues, have a mental checklist handy to observe the environment for uncomfortable conditions. Some first inclinations would be to check the clock, ruling out any need for medication, hunger, thirst or sleep. A quick scan can make small adjustments such as modifying the temperatures, adding company for a distraction or remove any unwanted visitors. This will become more familiar to you over time.
Once there has been an examination of the surroundings, the next step would be to distract the patient. Some good ideas are to use a favorite item or conversation topic. Other helpful options would be to initiate an activity like a walk outside for fresh air. Kind gestures such as soft tones, touching or hugs if they are open (just be sure to approach the person slowly from the front).
The way you speak to the loved one with dementia matters. It can set the conversation up for failure or success. Be sure to avoid confrontation or ask too many questions and at a rapid pace. When a question is necessary, keep it simple and allow lots of time to answer. Keep in mind that all of your communication should be clearly spoken loud enough to hear and to the point. Short sentences work well. Be armed with lots of positive reassurance, and be ready to repeat your statements or questions as often as needed. An excellent way to curb loneliness is to regularly engage them in conversation making them feel like they are contributing.
Those who are impacted by dementia need to have safe outlets to express their emotions whether they be frustrations, joys, and fears. For this reason, many medical institutions provide groups for families and patients. Being around other people with the same circumstances can not only help the person suffering from dementia but can help you and immediate family as well. Groups also offer opportunities for different activities that everyone can enjoy. If your circumstance is limited to the house, there are alternatives such as Internet groups. Another helpful option is telephone hotlines that provide support when you need to talk to someone. They can often be a good source to vent frustration or just be available to provide useful tips.
A considerable and important part of living with a dementia patient is maintaining medical treatment, appointments, and care. Be sure to maintain regular appointments with physicians and hire home care if needed. This will ensure keeping your loved one safe. Positive health is a very important and recommended way to reduce the progression of dementia.
When communicating with and caring for the patient, remember that they are not acting out, it is the disease taking over. Once you have this fundamental understanding of what is happening in your loved one’s mind and body, you can make more educated decisions for them. Armed with this helpful information, you can then provide the necessary care to make their life as abundant and joyful as possible.
When the time is right for your family to discuss senior housing options for your loved one, a helpful first step would be to consult a professional. At Oasis Senior Advisors, we care about making this transition as stress-free as possible. Each of our local, certified advisors has a wealth of knowledge and resources regarding the skilled nursing care centers, retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and memory care environments in the area. No matter the circumstances that have prompted your search, from Alzheimer’s disease to dementia to mobility issues, our caring advisors provide you with valuable information relevant to your situation. Following an in-depth discussion in which we learn more about your unique needs, we dedicate ourselves to finding you an ideal new living arrangement. We work with you and your family to find the best solution possible, and our services are always free.