Coping with Dementia

Coping with DementiaWith the new census statistics recently being released we can see that we have an ageing population in Ireland.  Unfortunately this means that there are a significant number of people – 55,000 at present – living with dementia.  Dementia is a biological brain disorder that makes it more and more difficult for people affected to remember things, to communicate and look after themselves. It can also cause mood swings and changes in behavior.   All of this can be quite difficult for the estimated 500,000 of us who are living in families affected by dementia and attempting to care for our loved ones.  So how do we help care for our loved ones and cope ourselves?1. AcceptanceOur first recommendation is to accept that your loved one has dementia.  Don’t try and expect them to behave the way you think they should or in the way that they used to.  Having said that, it is also a good thing to remind them of the past.  Their short term memory will not be good but their long term memory can very often be extremely intact and reminding them of the past can be affirming for them. 2. Be PositiveBe respectful and positive when talking to your family member, frustrating as you may find their behavior. Use facial expressions, tone of voice and touch to communicate and demonstrate affection and respect. 3. Keep it SimpleAsk simple questions. Keep it to one at a time with simple yes or no answers.  Don’t ask them questions about 5 minutes ago but try 35 years ago. Try not to ask open-ended questions or give the person too many choices.  Visual prompts and cues can be helpful. 4. Listen Listen to their response.  If they are struggling with their answer, maybe suggest some words for them. Listen for the feelings that underlie their responses.5. Be PatientBe patient with them.  People with dementia often get frustrated as they feel confused and anxious. They may have beliefs that are incorrect – e.g. thinking something happened that you never did. Avoid trying to correct them or convince them they are wrong. Focus on the feelings they are trying to express.  Offer comfort and reassurance.Try not to raise your voice.  Use repetition to try and get your point across. Use names of people and places to help them. 6. Seek AttentionGet the person’s attention before speaking.  Limit distractions and identify yourself by name and relation.  Try and maintain eye contact. 7. DistractWhen things get particularly difficult however, it’s ok to distract them. If they become distressed, maybe suggest going for a walk or go for a cup of tea.   8. Step-by-StepBreakdown activity into a series of steps. Remind them of the things they need to do to achieve something and help them when they have forgotten – for example, putting on a coat to go for a walk, etc. 9. Game for a LaughTry and keep your sense of humour where possible. People with dementia like to have a laugh with you. Never laugh at the person!10. Ask for HelpSometimes people with dementia can be difficult to deal with and maybe too difficult for you to handle all on your own.  There are plenty of supports out there so if you feel you can’t cope, please understand that is ok and contact your GP / Public Health Nurse / Family member and ask for help.  Also below are some links that might help you.• Castle Homecare Services• Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland • Family Carers Ireland • Age Action • HSE At Castle Homecare, we offer professional dementia home care for you or a loved one. As the changes these disorders can cause on a person as well as their loved ones can be extremely challenging (and very hard to deal with alone) we can provide experienced home care services. We have learnt through our own experience providing home care to people with dementia that everyone’s needs are different and so our services are be tailored to meet each individual’s actual support needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01 2965304 if you would like a chat about your requirements.