Do you have a loved one with dementia? Are you sad, mad, frustrated, tired and wondering why this is happening to you and your loved one? What did anyone do to deserve this? These feelings are all normal and unfortunately you are not alone. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care equaling 18.5 billion total hours and $234 billion
Caring for a loved one who has dementia can become extremely difficult. Dementia treats everyone different and doesn’t act the same in any person. Sometimes you may experience the “behaviors” of your loved one. Behaviors are a form of communication. No matter how frustrating it is, it is important to understand that they are trying to tell you something. If you can start to think of “behaviors” as an unmet need it is easier to understand. It could be they are hungry, thirsty, hot, cold, in pain, or they may just be bored. Sometimes their brain just gets stuck on something. It could be an unlimited number of needs and sometimes we have to act as an investigator to find out what it is.
There are some things we can do to help when communicating with our loved ones:
- Call them by their name (if they have a nick name that they’ve been called all their life then you should use that)
- Tell them who you are using a calm, gentle voice
- Use short, simple sentences and speak slowly
- It is best to have no distractions around
- Allow enough time for them to understand what you said and find an answer. Sometimes this can take up to 90 seconds. It’s best to just let them think and be silent so you don’t confuse them, don’t ask more questions while waiting for their answer
- No matter how bad the dementia gets try and remember they are adults so don’t talk down to them, they are not children
- Do your best to avoid asking a lot of questions
- Don’t say “remember”, because they probably don’t
There are many ways to help make the caregiving process easier. Just remember as long as you are doing your best and keeping your loved one’s best interest in mind then you are doing a great job. Don’t forget to take care of yourself as well.