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7 Tips For Family Caregivers Of Dementia Patients

7 Tips for Family Caregivers of Dementia Patients

Memory problems are just one of the stressful symptoms of dementia. If you have an elderly loved one with this condition, you’re not alone. Many family caregivers must navigate dementia’s challenges, and it’s often a difficult road. However, certain strategies can make the days easier for everyone. 

You may wonder how you can best support your aging loved one through this period of their life. Try these seven crucial tips for family caregivers of dementia patients

  1. Keep Things Consistent and Routine
  2. Use Clear, Concise Statements
  3. Show Compassion and Empathy
  4. Avoid Arguing
  5. Use Healthy Distractions When Necessary
  6. Take Care of Yourself
  7. Encourage a Safe Level of Independence

Keep Things Consistent and Routine

Your loved one with dementia needs as much structure in their life as possible. This can foster a sense of security. Many people with dementia show worsening symptoms when their environment is inconsistent and unpredictable. 

One of the best things you can do is make both a morning and a nighttime routine for your loved one. No matter what the day’s events are, stick to these routines religiously. Remind your loved one when it’s time for each step of the routine to reinforce those concepts for them. 

Use Clear, Concise Statements

Avoid getting wordy or confusing with your directions. Speak to your loved one clearly, and sum up what you have to say in fewer words whenever possible. They’re likely battling confusion and frustration while you’re talking, so it’s crucial to make the conversation easier for them. 

When you need your loved one to perform a task or movement, simply state it in a polite but firm tone. Don’t leave room for interpretation, as this can lead to power struggles and further confusion. 

Show Compassion and Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, even if you’ve had a different life experience than them. This skill is essential when caring for a loved one with dementia. You are their primary source of support and love, and they need all the compassion they can get. 

It can be frustrating and stressful to be a family caregiver. You’re human, too, and you deserve to express your emotions in healthy ways. However, you should always keep in mind that your loved one is struggling every day. Whenever possible, wear your heart on your sleeve, and let them know you’re there for them no matter what. 

Avoid Arguing 

Arguments don’t solve anything when you’re caring for a loved one with dementia. In fact, conflict can make their symptoms even worse and affect their mental health. While you’re in a very overwhelming role, you don’t have to battle it out with your loved one every time there’s a disagreement. 

One way to address rising conflict is to validate your loved one’s feelings and then end the conversation. Ultimately, you are responsible for keeping them safe and healthy. If you have to perform a task that they don’t agree to, you can acknowledge their feelings and still move forward. 

Use Healthy Distractions When Necessary

Patients with dementia can get heated very quickly, sometimes over seemingly simple matters. In these cases, it’s best to distract them with an activity or conversation. It won’t be productive to feed into their frustrations. 

Some examples of healthy redirection include:

  • Television
  • Books
  • Discussing your day together
  • Eating a meal
  • Taking a walk
  • Meeting up with a friend
  • Playing a simple game
  • Listening to your loved one’s favorite music

These activities are important in your loved one’s life, and they can be used to gracefully distract them from whatever is bothering them. If one distraction doesn’t work, try another while validating their negative emotions. 

Take Care of Yourself 

It may sound cliché, but keep in mind that you can’t pour from an empty cup. As a family caregiver, you don’t get many breaks to care for yourself. It’s important to take these opportunities when you can and pour them back into your own well-being. You’ll be a better caregiver for it. 

Some ways you can care for yourself include:

  • Taking a hot bath
  • Journaling
  • Listening to music
  • Reading a light book
  • Watching entertaining videos online
  • Unplugging from technology 
  • Treating yourself to your favorite meal or dessert
  • Baking
  • Taking a walk in nature
  • Going to the gym
  • Meeting up with a friend 
  • Buying yourself something you need or want

These are small and simple activities, but they add up quickly. If you incorporate self-care into your life on a regular basis, you’ll start to see the benefits as you work with your loved one. 

Self-care reduces the likelihood that you’ll burn out and experience poor mental health. Lean on any support that family members or professionals can lend you. You’re just as worthy of joy and care as your loved one with dementia. 

Encourage a Safe Level of Independence 

Your loved one may struggle with dementia, but that doesn’t mean they need all their autonomy ripped away. Instead, see how you can encourage independent decision-making throughout the day. Some examples of this may include letting them pick out their outfit or allowing them to bathe themselves with supervision. 

You know your loved one’s level of competence best. You don’t have to risk their safety to give them more autonomy over their life. You can watch over their activities from a safe distance as they practice independence during the activities of daily living. 

Managing Life With Dementia: Boost Your Loved One’s Care 

You’re in a unique position as a family caregiver. You get to spend most of your time with someone you deeply love and care about. With these key tips, you can elevate your loved one’s care and navigate the challenges of dementia — one day at a time. 

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices throughout California including: Campbell, CARoseville, CASan Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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