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What you should know about caring for people with dementia

What you should know about caring for people with dementia

When someone has dementia, that person isn’t the only one affected by the disease. Caring for people with dementia offers its own set of challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 5.8 million people in the U.S. currently have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. That means millions—and potentially billions—of family members and friends are living with dementia as an everyday reality.

If you’re part of that number, know that you’re not alone. Support is available to help you navigate the challenges, including specialized programs through Touro.

What to expect when a loved one has dementia

When you think about dementia, memory loss is probably the first thing that comes to mind. While memory issues are often an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, the diseases cause many other symptoms.

If a loved one has recently been diagnosed, it can be helpful to learn about all the symptoms that are possible with dementia and what to expect. Along with memory loss, your loved one may experience:

  • Confusion related to time and place
  • Difficulty speaking or writing
  • Diminished judgment or decision-making capacity
  • Increased propensity for misplacing things
  • Mood and personality changes
  • Problems with completing everyday tasks
  • Struggles with problem-solving
  • Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships
  • Withdrawal from normal activities, including work and social interactions

Because dementia is a progressive disease, the condition will worsen over time. New symptoms may develop, or existing symptoms may become more severe.

In the initial days after a diagnosis, caring for a person with dementia will consist of setting routines and finding a system of reminders and rituals that help the person cope.

As new symptoms emerge, the day to day of the caregiving journey will change. It can be increasingly challenging and overwhelming to care for someone who may not recognize you or who is acting out because of dementia. During this time, remember your own needs—and ask for help when you need it.

Don’t forget to care for the caregiver

The phrase “caring for the caregiver” may seem trite, but it’s essential! When you’re on an airplane, the safety instructions will tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before you help others with theirs. That same principle goes for taking care of your own physical, mental and emotional needs while being a family caregiver.

Take steps to keep yourself healthy and maintain your quality of life:

Fuel your body with good food. Nourish yourself by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein to give you energy, whole grains, and a small amount of healthy fat, such as what’s found in avocado or nuts.

Make time to move your body. It may seem like you don’t have enough hours in the day as it is, but making time to exercise will benefit you in the long run. Regular physical activity will keep you mentally and physically strong and help you manage stress.

Take breaks. Find others who can help with the heavy lifting. It’s essential to carve out time for yourself, so have others take over caregiving in regular shifts to give you the time you need. You may also want to consider respite care services for your loved one to give you that break when you need it.

Lean on peers. Support groups for dementia caregivers can be incredibly helpful, allowing you to hear from those who are in your shoes. There are many options, so look for one that meets your needs, whether it meets in person or online.

Our biggest tip? Don’t forget about yourself while you care for someone with dementia. Your health and wellness are valuable.

Wondering whether your loved one could benefit from palliative care services? Learn more about supportive care at Touro or call 504.897.7014.