Caring for a loved one with dementia can turn your world upside down. Even though you know their behaviors are unintentional and are mere symptoms of a disease, dealing with these challenges daily can take a toll on your physical and emotional health.
A positive but realistic mindset is essential to helping someone with dementia. At the same time, equipping yourself with ample knowledge about the disease puts you in a better position to care for your loved one.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a broad term that covers different medical conditions, often characterized by personality change, memory loss, and cognitive decline. ;
The most popular type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which makes up over 60-80% of cases. Other examples include Vascular dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Pick’s disease, and many others. Many of these conditions involve some form of intellectual impairment that are not part of normal aging and can impact daily living. Knowing the specific type of dementia your loved one has is essential to optimizing treatment.
People with dementia are likely to encounter problems with remembering, learning, communicating, and problem-solving. These issues may occur differently for each patient, sometimes quickly or very slowly over time. The progression of the disease depends on the type of dementia and the affected area of the brain.
Signs and symptoms
Normal aging comes with lapses in memory, but learning to pinpoint the signs of dementia can help you take the right measures to slow or manage the condition sooner.
Signs of dementia can vary for each person, but common examples include:
- Short-term memory loss
- Distorted reasoning
- Unsound judgment
- Unbecoming behavior
- A decline in communication skills
- Confusion over time and place
- Problems with abstract thinking
- Difficulties with motor, gait, and balance
- Failure to manage safety and personal care ;
- Agitation, hallucinations, and paranoia
Most symptoms of dementia appear gradually and worsen over time. While they cannot be eliminated, there are still ways to reduce their effects.
Most types of dementia can’t be cured, but there are ways to control its symptoms and make daily life easier and more comfortable for your loved one.
First, create a consistent daily routine with set times for waking up, napping, and going to bed. Prioritize stress-free activities such as reading, gardening, practicing tai chi and light exercises, solving crosswords or puzzles, or simply watching television. The key is to keep your loved one busy throughout the day without agitating them. Rigorous activities may trigger episodes of paranoia and increased confusion.
To date, there is still no cure or treatment to prevent dementia. However, doctors can prescribe medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors to manage symptoms.
Effectively caring for a person with dementia requires specific skills and years of training. Hiring live-in care for elders can give you peace of mind knowing help is on hand 24/7. Such carers are trained to handle sensitive tasks, including bathing, using the toilet, and scheduling medication and fluid intake. ;
Life doesn’t end with a dementia diagnosis. While you cannot physically stop the disease, you can still help your loved one enjoy life by listening, providing reassurance, and building a supportive and positive environment.