While one of the main symptoms of dementia is memory loss, dementia is more than forgetfulness. Dementia caregivers know all too well that dementia brings with it a number of other symptoms and side effects that can make caregiving a difficult journey. Take a closer look at what some of these symptoms are and how you, as a caregiver, can cope with them while compassionately caring for your loved one.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that affect memory, thinking and social abilities, and interfere with activities of daily living. And, while dementia often involves memory loss, experiencing memory loss or cognitive impairment does not necessarily indicate the presence of dementia.
Dementia symptoms vary greatly from person to person and different types of dementia will manifest itself in different symptoms. Generally speaking, dementia symptoms are cognitive and psychological.
Cognitive Effects of Dementia
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating or remembering words
- Difficulty problem-solving or making decisions
- General confusion
- Difficulty planning
- Reduction in coordination
Psychological Effects of Dementia
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behavior
- Sleep issues
8 Tips for Coping with Difficult Dementia Behaviors
Any of these symptoms can make caregiving difficult – especially to a loved one watching their loved one suffer and change as the disease progresses. As dementia progresses through early-stage, mid-stage, and late-stage the role of the caregiver will also progress, becoming increasingly holistic in nature.
These 8 tips can help you navigate the more stressful times of dementia caregiving
1. Create a Peaceful Environment
Use calm, subtle colors to decorate, turn off unnecessary noise from a TV and reduce clutter. Simplifying your environment can help your loved one relax and feel less overwhelmed and confused.
2. Limit Communication
It may not be necessary to tell your loved one things that will cause them stress or despair and it will save you from repeating yourself again and again. Try to live in their reality and promote peace.
3. Promote Physical Exercise
Ask your doctor about appropriate exercises to help your loved one get in at least 20 minutes per day of cardiovascular exercise. Physical exercise can stimulate circulation to the brain and reduce stress, helping your loved one cope with overwhelming feelings of disorientation and confusion.
4. Know Your Medication Options
When it comes to certain side effects like hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety, medications can sometimes help. Talk to a medical professional about options for your loved one.
5. Ask for Help From a Professional
There are memory care communities, respite care, and adult day care options for seniors with dementia. Doing your research and finding a place where your loved one is cared for well can give you time to re-energize and rest while your loved one is participating in meaningful and engaging activities that promote a sense of purpose.
6. Speak Simply
This may seem obvious but not stating your message clearly can result in confusion. Use simple words and sentences to get your point across clearly.
7. Practice Remembrance
While your loved one may not be able to recall short-term memories, many people living with dementia can remember what their lives were like when they were younger. Replaying popular music from their youth or asking questions about their distant past may help redirect them and bring them joy in a difficult time.
8. Know That You’re Doing Your Best
Dementia caregiving is extremely demanding and stressful. Take solace in the fact that you are caring for your loved one in a special way. Focus on the good times, be patient and understanding through the tough times, and know that you are not alone in your journey.
What dementia caregiving tips have worked for you? Share them with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!