Becoming a caregiver for a loved one with dementia can be intimidating, especially when you may feel like you’ve been thrown into the role with no guidance or experience. However, caregiving isn’t as daunting as you might think. Once you get familiar with the specifics of dementia care, you can easily create a positive and engaging environment for you and your loved one.
CaraVita Home Care, offering in-home and dementia care services to Roswell, Georgia, and the Metro Atlanta area, has created this guide to help navigate the rewarding but complex experience of dementia care.
Do: Educate Yourself
You may not know where to begin after a family member has received the initial diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. A good starting point for becoming a dementia caregiver is educating yourself on the condition, symptoms, and proper care methods. Caring for someone with dementia is unlike caring for other health conditions, and it’s important to make yourself aware of the varying stages and unique symptoms so that you can provide the best care possible.
There is a great online community of dementia caregivers, and you can find great resources from the Alzheimer’s Association, Family Caregiver Alliance, and many more online support groups and websites.
Don’t: Get Frustrated Easily
Caring for someone with dementia can be an unpredictable and sometimes uncontrollable experience. In these situations, it can be easy for a caregiver to get overwhelmed and frustrated, but frustration can make the situation worse. Individuals living with dementia can’t control or change their behavior, and frustration from a caregiver can cause heightened anxiety, confusion, and stress for them.
If you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, take a moment to take some deep breaths and count to ten. Doing this will relax the tension in your body so that you can calm down before returning to your loved one. Remind yourself that even though you are dealing with an uncontrollable situation, you can control your reaction to the situation.
Do: Establish a Familiar Schedule
People living with dementia or other memory impairments thrive on familiarity, as consistent routines can be calm and reassuring. Establishing a daily routine can help reduce anxiety for your loved one and maintain physical and mental functions.
By implementing a predictable routine, you can not only provide your loved one with confidence and consistency but also reduce frustrations as a caregiver by having an organized, daily plan.
Don’t: Be Vague or Open-Ended
When talking to your loved one, speak in a clear and reassuring tone. Speak in simple phrases that can be easily understood, and refrain from raising your voice. Try not to ask open-ended questions that could confuse or frustrate your loved one. Instead of asking what they want to do or what they want to eat for dinner, give them two or three options. Doing this allows your loved one to have some independence and choice without feeling overwhelmed.
Do: Promote an Engaging Environment
Being a dementia caregiver has its challenges, but it can also be a positive experience for both you and your loved one! There are many fun and engaging activities that you can do together that are not only stimulating but also enjoyable. Here are some fun activities for those living with dementia and their caregivers:
- Bake simple recipes together. Measuring ingredients and following instructions promotes mental stimulation. Plus, you both can enjoy the finished product.
- Do an arts and crafts project. Art can be a great way to encourage self-expression while offering cognitive and physical stimulation.
- Play music or listen to music. Not only does listening to music lift the spirits, but it’s also been shown that music therapy can provide emotional and behavioral benefits, as well as enhance memory recognition for those with dementia.
- Plant a garden or visit a local botanical garden. Gardening can engage the senses and can give your loved one something to tend to, building their independence and confidence.
Don’t: Feel Like You’re Alone
Always remember that you are not alone. There is a community of family, friends, and other caregivers who know what you’re going through and can step in to help. Reaching out for help and support will ultimately make you a stronger caregiver.
In addition to friends and family, many services can support you as you navigate the caregiver journey. CaraVita Home Care’s DementiaLife Program is specifically designed to help address the needs of those living with dementia and their caregivers.
We develop a functional schedule so that your loved one can feel comfort and control. As your loved one moves through the stages of dementia, our dementia care adapts and adjusts the care plan to best meet their physical, emotional, and relational needs.
We encourage you to contact CaraVita Home Care to learn more about our DementiaLife Program and other in-home care services.