5 Practical ways to care for senior citizens with dementia
Senior citizens or elders who suffer from dementia have a neurodegenerative disease. Among the most common is Alzheimer’s disease and this is a brain disorder that hampers several key areas of everyday living. Patients mainly have memory problems which then steadily trickle down to issues with communication and general self-care. As such, your responsibilities as a caretaker progressively increase too, as the elder or senior citizen you care for will start to become more dependent on you.
For many, such a transition can be quite challenging. You may struggle to distinguish between forgetfulness and dementia to start with. Further, caring for someone with dementia isn’t an easy task and will require a lot of effort. As the patient’s cognitive and physical capabilities start to diminish, you must ensure that you’re prepared to handle the responsibility without running into problems of your own.
To avoid common pitfalls faced by caretakers the world over, here are 5 tips to effectively care for senior citizens with dementia.
Maintain a set routine for daily tasks
Dementia, in its different forms, can be exceedingly difficult to endure and this is only worsened if there isn’t a set routine. In fact, it is important to set a routine for all elders. Those suffering from dementia often suffer mood swings and this can bring on bouts of aggressive behaviour when doing things that they aren’t prepared for. With a daily routine, senior citizens with dementia know what to expect at a given time of the day and aren’t faced with the burden of getting through the day without a plan.
Moreover, senior citizens with dementia are known to be most comfortable when on a routine because of the element of familiarity it provides. Being familiar with the environment and the activities they’re doing, these senior citizens are calmer and more willing to see things through. To top it all, following a set pattern of tasks can help transfer the routine into the long-term memory portion of the brain, thus reducing any feelings of being lost or unguided in the patient.
Prepare for changes in communication
As a caregiver, it is important that you are aware of the fact that communication will worsen as dementia progresses. Here, you’ll notice that your loved one will get confused a lot more, find it hard to maintain a conversation or even complete a sentence. To deal with this effectively, you need to prepare yourself for these changes. You can start by empathising with their situation and controlling yourself from feeling frustrated. Take multiple breaks if needed, but always go back to caring for your loved one with the simple goal of making things comfortable for them.
In cases where their memory has taken a serious hit, take the time to remind your loved one of who you are. You should call them by their name and speak slowly to help them process your words. Lastly, at any stage of dementia, avoid open-ended questions. Ask clear and simple questions that don’t require much effort to answer. Simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions work effectively when engaging dementia patients.
Create a safe environment
It is quite common for senior citizens with dementia to wander aimlessly, if left unattended. This can be quite dangerous and can lead to accidents or injuries. However, monitoring your loved one constantly throughout the day isn’t always possible. So, the next best option is to make everyday tasks easy for dementia patients and creating a safe environment at home is a great starting point. You can start by installing grab rails in the bathroom and on the staircase. To take it one step further, fit locks above the eye level as many people with dementia tend to ignore things above eye level.
You can also consider putting a home security system or giving your elder a GPS-enabled smart watch. This way, you can monitor their movements without constantly invading their personal space.
Plan social events and invite loved ones to visit
Social interaction may not be for everyone and is something you should take a call on based on your situation. However, a good way to care for those with dementia is to ensure they’re getting enough sensory experiences. This is best achieved through socialising, but you need to control it to avoid overstimulation. A safe route to go with is to ask loved ones to visit and inform the senior citizen with dementia of this plan. Such planned interactions can do wonders, especially when done in a controlled manner.
Put a personal care plan in place for yourself!
One of the best ways to care for your loved one suffering from dementia is to care for yourself. A caregiver’s mental and physical wellbeing is important and neglecting these can actually turn problematic. Start small by taking time for yourself and ensuring you get quality time to unwind. You can also approach professionals on ways to cope with the transition.
As a caregiver, it is important to be willing to seek help when needed. Approach family and friends or seek professional care. The Kshetra Assisted Living facility has a specially-designed Alzheimer’s and dementia care programme to accommodate such needs, all while ensuring maximum comfort. Here, your loved one enjoys non-intrusive care for all daily tasks include grooming, bathing, toileting, dressing, and others.
This ISO-certified facility also has trained non-medical staff to assist with feeding, aid with medication administration, monitor your loved one’s health, and offer care as needed. Residents at the Kshetra Assisted Living Facility become a part of a community and this can bring about a sense of belonging and happiness. For short- or long-term care, get in touch with the team at Kshetra.