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Caring for someone with dementia

Created date

April 6th, 2016

Last month, we discussed the rewards and challenges associated with caregiving. Given the importance of this topic and the millions of caregivers who do such important work, we thought we would continue the discussion this month with a focus on caregiving for individuals with memory impairment or dementia.

Fortunately, there are many resources available for caregivers, but many people lack the time to seek them out. Caring for someone with dementia has numerous challenges, but behavior changes associated with the disease may be some of the most difficult to understand and deal with. It is easy to take such actions and expressions personally, and that can aggravate an already stressful situation.

Stepwise approach 

Some experts recommend a stepwise approach to behavior problems. The first step is to remain calm and try to understand why the action is occurring. What is the individual trying to communicate? You must remind yourself that the expression is the result of disease-related brain changes or other factors such as pain, environmental changes, or misunderstanding. It is easy to feel responsible or guilty, but remember, it is not your fault. 

You likely can’t change the expression as it is occurring, but you can change how you react. Our first instinct is often to get upset and sometimes overreact, which may make the situation worse, leaving bad feelings all around. Do not argue or use logic. Stay calm, acknowledge your loved one’s feelings, and try to redirect their attention. You can change the subject or use music, pictures, or other techniques that tend to have a soothing effect. 

The next step is to again try to determine why the behavior may be happening. Is there too much light, activity, or noise? Does your loved one feel rushed? Has your schedule changed? It can be very helpful to establish a daily routine and stick to it. Sometimes, however, difficult behaviors can occur for no apparent reason, which is another reason to remain level-headed and stay in the moment.

Once the action or expression has resolved, you can examine and evaluate the problem and try to determine a preventive solution. It is also important to call the doctor when a new behavior occurs as sometimes a medical problem such as an infection or a side effect to medication may be the cause of the change.

One final note is a referral to the website powerfultoolsforcaregivers.org. Just as the name connotes, this site provides a superb self-care program for the caregiver to help you take care of yourself so you can stay resilient and strong through all the challenges. 

 

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