Providing care for seniors with dementia can be incredibly challenging, but many family caregivers also find their relationships with their loved ones deeply fulfilling. The primary keys to success for caregivers are compassion, patience, and flexibility. This article will focus not just on how family caregivers can provide more effective support for loved ones with dementia but also on how they can continue to care for themselves while doing so to avoid burnout.
People struggling with dementia often have impaired problem-solving skills and overall judgment, which can increase their risk of suffering injuries at home. Creating a safe environment helps to avoid unnecessary pain, suffering, and hospital trips for both seniors and their caregivers, and it doesn’t take as many major changes around the home as many people assume. Caregivers can get a good start by:
These seemingly small steps can prevent serious tragedies. However, in the later stages of dementia, they may not be sufficient to keep loved ones safe. At that point, even the most committed family caregivers will need to take advantage of memory care services.
Dementia patients often become anxious or agitated. Much of this agitation reflects frustration with once-simple tasks that have become more difficult. Limiting challenges for loved ones suffering from dementia can help to reduce their frustration. Family caregivers should:
Having a daily routine in place that includes not just assistance with ADLs but also memory care activities can make providing care much easier, but caregivers still need to schedule activities wisely. Try to plan more challenging tasks such as medical appointments for when the person will be most alert and anticipate that tasks will take much longer than they used to.
Allowing dementia patients to do as much as they can for themselves helps to reduce feelings of helplessness that can lead to frustration. The level of assistance required to complete tasks can vary not just by person but also by day, so try to be flexible and attentive to the person’s needs.
Keeping distractions to a minimum and providing simple, one-step instructions for completing tasks can help seniors with dementia stay more focused. Research shows that people struggling with dementia remain more engaged and retain a better quality of life when they engage in social interactions and stay as independent as possible. Creating an environment that supports focus and reduces frustration facilitates those goals.
Over time, people tend to require greater levels of dementia care. Try to stay flexible and responsive to the loved one’s needs and wants. If, for example, the person insists on wearing the same outfit every day, buy multiple sets of their favorite pants and shirts. If getting the person to bathe every day has become a constant struggle, consider setting up a schedule that involves maintaining personal hygiene but taking showers less often. Remember that it’s about meeting the loved one’s needs, and those will change.
Given how much work it takes to care for people with dementia and how little thanks caregivers typically get in return, it should come as no surprise that burnout is common. To avoid this problem, family caregivers should set aside time for themselves, take advantage of available resources, and have clear boundaries in place.
Many people assume that they should be able to do it all, or that there’s something wrong with them for getting frustrated with loved ones, taking things personally, or needing breaks. These issues are normal. If they are getting in the way of the ability to provide adequate care, don’t be afraid to investigate safe alternatives.
No one should be left to care for a loved one with dementia alone. Here at Pioneer Place Memory Haven, we provide not just a warm, welcoming senior living community in Tacoma, WA, for residents struggling with cognitive decline but also peace of mind for their loved ones. Our community is purpose-built and our staff is thoroughly trained to provide exceptional care to residents with all stages of dementia. Give us a call at (253) 539-3410 to discuss a loved one’s needs and how we can help to meet them today.