More than 850,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with dementia. This includes 1 in 6 people over 80 years old, according to the Alzheimer's Society. As these figures are predicted to continue rapidly growing, the number of family members who need to support someone experiencing memory loss will grow as well. As November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month, now is a good time for carers to focus on how to provide the best support possible for their loved ones with dementia.
When someone is diagnosed with dementia, they may experience more than just memory problems. They may show signs of behavioural and emotional changes that carers should be prepared to handle.
As a carer, you will have to help your relative retain their sense of identity and confidence. Use these tips as a guide to caring for your family member.
1. Expect common behavioural changes
When someone develops dementia, they may suddenly become reliant on you for assistance with activities and tasks that were once easy for them to do on their own. This can cause a lot of frustration and your loved one may become irritable. In some cases, these emotions may lead to social withdrawal or isolation. The Alzheimer's Society emphasises the importance of seeing beyond the behaviour itself and focusing more on what's causing it to determine the best solution to the problem.
Developing a daily routine that involves exercise and activities that are meaningful to your relative will help them to cope with any negative feelings he may be experiencing. For example, encourage them to continue with activities such as a daily walk to provide a sense of stability.
2. Don't get flustered
One of the most important things to remember when supporting people living with dementia is that when they display bouts of anger or anxiety, you should try to remain calm. Although situations may become frustrating due to communication problems, keeping your voice low and maintaining eye contact will show your family member that you're relaxed. Being prepared is a large part of successfully resolving these situations. Have a place where you can take your relative to reduce noise and clutter, such as the car if you're away from home. Even having their favourite song ready to play or a personal item that calms them down on hand can help them to feel at ease.
3. Understand communication problems
People with dementia often experience difficulties finding the right words when speaking or following a conversation. The NHS says that instead of trying to correct your relative if he says the wrong word or phrase, it's best to use other means of communication. Body language is often useful, especially when your loved one needs to communicate everyday needs like hunger. Coming up with new words to replace old ones that they can't remember anymore is another effective strategy to enhance communication between you and your family member.
"Think of the extra help you're providing as a chance to do things together."
4. Try not to "take over"
Giving up their independence is one of the hardest changes that people living with dementia must adapt to. It's often the root of any frustration or irritation that they feel. Therefore, it's essential that you keep this in mind when stepping in to assist with daily tasks. For example, think of the extra assistance you're providing as an opportunity to do things together. Don't jump into a situation and start helping your loved one. First, offer support so that they know they still have control over the situation.
5. Find your own emotional support
While supporting your family member means focusing on their needs, it's essential that you don't forget your own needs. Make sure to save time each day for yourself, whether it's an hour with friends or time to enjoy a quick walk. Reserving personal time to yourself is key to ensuring you're healthy enough to provide the support your loved one needs. Seeking help from friends or even a support group if necessary is also a good idea.
At Grace well, our care homes, such as our All Saints care village, are staffed with professional carers who understand that while residents experiencing memory loss do require extra support, ensuring that the needs and of each individual person is respected is essential. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.