As we age, various health related issues begin to surface. Diseases related to memory loss are becoming increasingly more common and often develop in older adults. Dementia is a common chronic disease that strikes the older population mostly but is not limited to them. It can sometimes also develop in young people – in rare cases, children and teenagers can also develop it.
Dementia gradually (or sometimes not-so-gradually) affects a person’s ability to remember or recognize things including important life events, loved ones, sights and sounds, and/or associate objects with meaning.
People who have this disease have trouble remembering things, communicating effectively with others, planning their schedule, and all other routine chores of life. Generally, it is dementia that is to be blamed for memory loss, decrease in higher-level cognitive functions, language skills, and unstable emotions.
We have to admit that caring for a person with dementia or any other type of memory loss is hard work. As a caregiver, we may find it difficult to tackle their complicated and unusual behaviors, and overall personality changes.
Dementia patients may sometimes throw tantrums about dressing, bathing, and toileting. But to help caregivers out in this journey, especially first-time caregivers, we have compiled a list of 6 things that you should avoid.
Being in Denial
The most difficult and painful thing for anyone would be to acknowledge the signs of dementia, especially when these become apparent in their loved ones. It has been observed that it’s common for friends and loved ones to be in denial of the disease for a long time before finally accepting it.
We tend to ignore reality, their symptoms, make excuses, push the indications to the back of our mind and find other ways to avoid thinking even for a minute that the person may have dementia.
But in order to be able to give the best possible care, you must come out of the denial phase first and then explain things patiently and sympathetically to the patient as well who may also be in a state of denial just like you.
Remember, it is important to meet the loved one where they are. People at the early stage of dementia often vaguely understand that something is wrong. Spend time explaining what their physician has said, but don’t argue if they persist in saying they are fine. Just reassure them that you are there for them.
Asking “Do you remember?”
Questioning a person with dementia if they remember something is a common mistake. And as a caregiver, asking questions relating to their memory could worsen the situation.
Questions such as “what did you have for breakfast?” or “what is Aunt Cindy’s dog’s name?” would embarrass and frustrate them even if they don’t come up with an answer or simply don’t know what to say.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, it is very easy to lose your cool and get involved in arguments especially when they say things that don’t make sense. And from time to time, you can expect to hear things that don’t make much sense.
For example, a dementia patient may remember situations differently than they actually happened and can often paste different scenarios together to make up a new story. This is known as confabulation.
It is next to impossible to win an argument with people with dementia, and can worsen the situation for you and them. So avoid getting into arguments at all costs. If you feel that your loved one is getting frustrated about something, and is arguing with you then the best thing to do is to change the subject altogether. Even if an argument erupts on something as small (albeit important) as taking medication. Let their mind wander to something else, before attempting to bring up the topic again.
Reminding the person that a loved one is dead
It is not unusual for people with dementia to believe that their deceased family members or a loved one is still alive. They may be confused or feel hurt that the person doesn’t come to visit anymore. As a caregiver, it is best not to discuss the death as it might feel to them as if this is the first they’ve heard of it… over and over again.
In exceptional cases, if they ask you if the person is gone, then it’s wise to give them an honest answer.
Bringing up topics that may upset them
There should not be any reason to bring up topics that you, as a caregiver, know may upset the patient. Don’t drag the patient into unnecessary discussions that may start an argument, so avoid all those things that can be a cause of frustration and anger to them.
Delaying nursing home placement when it’s clearly needed.
At any point, if the disease progresses and it becomes evident that you can no longer care for the person at home then without any delay immediately seek professional help or place the patient in a proper nursing home.
By avoiding this important aspect, you will only contribute to their deteriorating condition. What if they need a nursing staff and aid 24 hours a day or a physician on call at all times? Figuring this out is your responsibility as a caregiver. Sometimes placing the person in a reputable institution is indeed the most loving choice for the patient — and not to mention for you too.
When dealing with problematic behaviors from someone with dementia, it’s important to keep in mind that they are not being difficult intentionally. Let’s face it, our loved one’s sense of reality may not be the same as ours, but it is still very real to them.
As a caregiver, it is not in your hand to change their state of mind, but you can surely contribute in making their life better. By following these guidelines you will understand the sore points to avoid when dealing with dementia patients.
About the Author
Alma Causey is a freelance writer by day and sports fan by night. She writes about tech education and health related issues (but not at the same time). Live simply, give generously, and watch football.
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