It is a common misconception that dementia is part and parcel of normal ageing, when it is actually not. Dementia actually refers to a set of conditions characterised by memory loss, confusion and behavioural changes. One of the most common forms of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (60% to 80% of cases).
You may be feeling distressed or at a loss if your family member is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. With sufficient support and appropriate steps taken, such a condition can be managed.
This guide will provide practical tips and suggestions on how to care for a person with dementia.
With a progressive decline in cognitive functions of the dementia patient, memory loss & confusion are some of the more difficult issues caregivers may face.
Patients with dementia may have difficulty finding the correct words, understanding instructions, and employ many gestures rather than verbally communicating. Often, talking to a family member with dementia may prove challenging and frustrating. However, remember that they are not trying to be difficult on purpose, and try your best to empathise with them. We have compiled some tips to help you and your dementia patient communicate effectively:
Keep them focused – Remove distractions such as the TV when communicating with dementia patients.
Anxiety, confusion and negative feelings may trigger aggressive behaviour in dementia patients. Often, such behaviour is triggered by particular actions or events and it may be frustrating when you are unable to understand the specific cause.
Ensure their needs are met – Understand what they need, their feelings and make the necessary adjustments. Also engage the person in frequent one-to-one conversations so they do not feel isolated, which is a possible trigger for aggressive behaviour.
Due to confusion or being disoriented, a dementia patient may wander aimlessly, trying to search for something or attempt to fulfil previous obligations such as going to work. Sometimes, the patient may even get lost. It is important to be on the lookout for such behaviour and have preventive measures in place.
Prepare an action plan – Keep a record of places your loved one might go and have a list of people to call for help.
Due to changes in the brain arising from dementia, some patients may start to have false perceptions of the things around them, including hallucinating and delusional thoughts. As a caregiver, you may be frightened when such a situation arises, but it is important that you first remain calm before attempting to calm your loved one down.
Adjust the environment – Switch off any TV shows, computers, or appliances that are emitting sounds in the background. They may be contributing to their hallucination or delusional thoughts since they cannot separate them from reality.
Sundowning is also known as “late day confusion”. Dementia symptoms may be more prevalent in the afternoon and evening. Due to their confusion and memory loss, they may also be unable to distinguish between daytime and night-time.
Adjust the environment – In the daytime, ensure that the place is well-lit (e.g. drawing the curtains and opening the windows) to make it clearer to the patient that it is daytime. Before bedtime, turn off the lights, reduce ambient noise, and adjust the room to a comfortable temperature to prepare a conducive environment for sleep.
Select healthier food options – Cut down on processed foods and foods with high cholesterol, sodium and fat. Try to select foods with the Healthier Choice symbol.
Choose easy to swallow foods – Some examples are mashed tofu, scrambled eggs, and porridge. These kinds of foods are considered a soft diet. Especially in the later stages of dementia, the risk of choking may be higher.
To some dementia patients, bathing is an unfamiliar and scary experience. You may experience much resistance if you try to bathe them against their will, and even physical aggression.
Get professional help – Jaga-Me offers high quality home nursing services for dementia patients. Our trained nurses can help your loved one change his or her incontinence pad and train you to handle these issues.
For caregivers, home modifications are often forgotten but immensely useful in aiding you in caring for your loved one. We have compiled a list of useful (but definitely not exhaustive!) list of ways you can adjust your living environment.
Even though you are taking care of your loved one, it is crucial for you to take care of yourself as well. Joining a caregiver support group is helpful in connecting with other caregivers facing similar struggles in an understanding environment.
Alzheimer’s Disease Association (Singapore) has caregiver support groups specially for dementia caregivers. You can find out more here.
Taking care of your loved one at home in a familiar environment rather than leaving them in a nursing home helps them age in place and lead more comfortable and happy lives.
Researchers from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) found that ¾ of the burden of caring for dementia patients falls on the caregiver, and so help must start from the home.
At Jaga-Me, we understand your struggles. That’s why we offer professional caregiving service tailored just for you. Learn more about our home care services here so you can enjoy a well-deserved break while you leave your loved one in our safe hands.
Need some financial aid in taking care of your dementia patient? Jaga-Me has compiled a comprehensive list of financial assistance schemes for care recipients and caregivers in Singapore for your reference.
Caring for a patient with dementia is not an easy task. Jaga-Me can help to ease your burden. Book our services or call us to find out more about our dementia day and home care services in Singapore.