When your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you have a lot to consider. Dementia care will change over time and come with various challenges at different stages. Though the disease may manifest in unique ways for each person, having certain tools and resources will help any dementia caregiver. Today, we’re taking a look at lessons from highly effective caregivers for loved ones with dementia. We hope these lessons and tips will make your dementia care journey easier.
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How do highly effective people care for loved ones with dementia?
They plan ahead.
Since dementia is progressive, caregivers can use the opportunity to plan for later stages early in the disease. For example, a person with early-stage dementia has capacity to participate in decision making that they may not later. If they have not executed (or recently updated) advance care and legal documents, now is the time to take action. Assessing the financial situation and support system enables the family to map out a plan for future care.
Armed with information and a plan, both the person with dementia and their caregivers have more choices. The plan will evolve as things change with the disease, but the initial planning is also a time to set markers and a process for reevaluation. Thus, rather than waiting on a crisis, everyone knows when it’s time to review and adjust.
Get your plan in place today. Our care managers can help you with all aspects of planning and getting connected with the resources you need.
They create a beneficial routine.
A daily routine helps the person with dementia cope with short-term memory loss. A predictable daily pattern can become part of the long-term memory, which helps the person retain their abilities to do activities of daily living. Being able to maintain self-care to a greater extent means more autonomy for the person with dementia, and reduced burden for caregivers.
Supporting autonomy for the person with dementia is essential for caregivers, who may be in the role for many years. One study showed the average lifespan for someone diagnosed with dementia is 4.5 years, but many people live much longer. Those diagnosed before age 70 typically live a decade or more.
A routine is comforting to the person with dementia and can increase quality of life. It is also necessary for effective caregiving, keeping you on track to get essential tasks completed. Life as a caregiver can be chaotic, but a routine builds stability.
The daily routine can be built around the person with dementia’s preferences and needs. However, most highly effective caregivers include certain key elements. To learn more and see the benefits of such a routine, check out This Morning Routine Keeps Alzheimer’s Patients at Home.
They build a dementia care team.
Caregivers can’t do it solo. This is never truer than in the case of dementia. Highly effective caregivers bring in help from the start. They seek experts in the planning stages so they get reliable advice. An effective caregiver knows this can save them time, money and a lot of hassle. It may be tempting to think we can find out and do anything ourselves with the world wide web of information, but Google is a poor substitute for tailored, expert help.
Successful caregivers assess where they might need help and start to build a support team. This team and the roles everyone plays will change as the disease progresses. But, bringing in some help even when you can “manage” is also a preventative measure. It’s like insurance for the future, knowing you have built a safety net for you and your loved one.
They get respite.
Every care team needs backup players, especially considering this is a long game. Caregivers can do their best when they stay healthy and rested. As a matter of fact, 88% of caregivers agreed that respite allowed their loved one to remain at home. And, 98% of caregivers felt that respite made them a better caregiver and increased their ability to provide a less stressful environment.
They learn effective care strategies and get creative with solutions.
One constant of dementia care is change. Caregivers experience new challenges throughout the disease. This may come in the form of the disease simply progressing so that the person needs more care. It can also be that other illness and disability affects what the care recipient needs. Often, it also comes with challenging behaviors associated with dementia.
Common behaviors include agitation, paranoia, wandering, sundowner’s syndrome (restlessness and agitation in the late afternoon/evening) and resisting care. The person often asks repeated questions, but may also get hyper-focused on one thing (i.e. something they “need to do” or somewhere they “need to go”). They may sleep less or more, or at odd times. They may develop odd eating habits and refuse to bathe. Their memory loss and confusion may create fear and anxiety. This plays out in assorted new challenges to you as the caregiver.
Fortunately, you can overcome many of these challenges with some “care tricks”. In other words, it just takes a little bit of creativity and rethinking the approach. (Another reason why it’s so important to have a care team to share ideas, and respite so you have the energy to be creative when faced with challenges.)
Download the Dementia Care Guide to get our experts’ tips and tricks to better dementia care. This guide covers many of the common dementia care challenges and will give you specific pointers to deal with them.
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