What is dementia?
Dementia is best explained as the loss of cognitive functioning their thinking, their memory (ability to remember), and reasoning (making complex decisions) is affected so much that it starts to inhibit a person’s life and the activities they were capable of doing previously. There are also many people with dementia that have great difficulty controlling their emotions, and because of this change their personalities can be seen to drastically change. Dementia can progress at different speeds, the speed at which dementia progresses differentiates from each individual because of different factors like: the type of dementia, age of the individual and other contributing long-term health problems.
Dementia affects millions of people all over the world and becomes a much more common condition as people start to get older (about one-third of all people age 85 or older may have some form of dementia) but that being the case does not imply it is to be seen as a normal part of aging it is not.
Caring for those with dementia is an intense and greatly emotional journey and can include many different conditions. It is a truly challenging experience for both the individual and those closest to them.
Here are some useful tips to help guide you on this complex road:
- Educate Yourself: it’s as much about learning as it is about Understanding knowing what specific type of dementia your partner or family member has and the way it progresses is only your first step on this journey. This information can and will help you know what changes you should be expecting and how the best way is to approach it.
- Communication: the best way for you to communicate would be to use clear and simple language and to speak calmly, be very patient for their responses they are often confused and struggle to grasp complex concepts. Try to always motivate them to express themselves, even if what they are saying doesn’t make sense. Try your best not to ask “Don’t you remember”, instead give clear statements.
- Following a Routine: Repetition and adhering to a daily schedule helps give them a sense of security for. Maintaining a daily routine with regular mealtimes, exercise/activities, and lots of rest helps to reduce their confusion and anxiety and allow them to keep as much control of their lives as possible.
- Establishing a Dementia-Friendly Environment: Adjust your living space. Make it feel safe and comfortable- try to keep photos or objects that they love or are attached to in plain sight. Do your best to get rid of any potential tripping hazards and make it a priority to have all rooms inside or outside have good lighting.
- Be Patient and Willing to Accommodate: Always remember that confusion is part of dementia. Be gentle when interacting with them explain to them exactly what you are going to do step by step as you do them. Be patient and reassuring when asking questions and provide gentle reminders instead of corrections.
- Practice Empathy: Put yourself in their shoes and understand that even the simplest of tasks can be incredibly daunting from their perspective. Dementia equals forgetting and repetition, and while this can be frustrating, it is essential to respond with kindness and understanding. Do your best to not become exasperated or angry with them and accept that they are no longer the same person they used to be. Don’t be afraid of them – make eye contact, hold their hand, show them that you are there and that you are listening. This makes it easier for them to in turn express what they are feeling.
- Choices– Give them options: As much as you are able, give them simple choices to help them maintain a sense of independence. People with dementia can have difficulty making some decisions and when that happens it’s important to remember– Don’t tell them they are wrong, and don’t argue instead give them options to choose from that way they feel they are more in control.
- Support: Caring for those with dementia can be an emotionally difficult journey and will take its toll on you not only mentally, but also physically. It will not only change their lives, but greatly impact yours too. As Ian Donaghy said “…dementia is a team game.” Talk to others going through the same journey as you – joining support groups, talking to healthcare professionals, and utilising facilities that provide care services are all options available to you to help you better understand and manage this new part of your life.
Remember that when you have someone in your life struggling with dementia that everyone with dementia is unique, and this information should be adjusted to fit their specific needs, preferences and current situation And that Giving them love, understanding, empathy and emotional support can be just as important as tending to their practical care.
Author: Brenden Pieterse
The Alzheimer’s Poem
What Is Dementia? Symptoms, Types, and Diagnosis-
The Progression, Signs And Stages Of Dementia-
Big Ian Donaghy- dementia is a team game
Tips for caregivers and families of people with dementia-
Ways to Show Empathy for Alzheimer’s Patients-
5 things to never say to a person with Alzheimer’s –
20 engaging activities for people with dementia at home –