If your loved one is still in the early stages of dementia, he or she may not yet require much care. The best thing you can do at this stage is to learn about your relative’s disease and what you can expect as the dementia progresses. It’s also a good idea for you, your relative, and your other family members to plan for the future while your loved one can still participate in the discussions.
If your loved one is in the middle stages of dementia, try to provide a safe environment and keep a daily routine. Read the tips below for ideas about how to cope with new demands and handle some of the behavior problems common in people who have dementia.
As the caregiver of a person who has dementia, you must first take care of yourself. If you become too tired and frustrated, you will be less able to help your family member. If you need a break, try the following:
Dementia will change your loved one’s ability to communicate thoughts and emotions to you. Your relative may not know how to tell you what he or she needs. Your relative may not understand what you want when you ask a question or make a request. This can be frustrating, but the following tips may help reduce stress and improve communication:
Your loved one may become agitated for many different reasons. Often, a sudden change in surroundings or frustrating situations can cause people who have dementia to become agitated. Being moved to a new apartment, home, or being admitted to a hospital or nursing home often can cause confusion or agitation. Even getting dressed or giving the wrong answer to a question may cause frustration. Being challenged about the confusion or inability to do things caused by the dementia may also make the person agitated. As a result, the person may cry, become irritable, or try to hurt others in some way.
To help minimize your relative’s agitation, try the following:
Dementia often causes changes in sleep patterns. Your loved one may become restless or wander at night. He or she may confuse night and day, and try to sleep all day. Try one or more of the following if your loved one is having trouble sleeping:
Sometimes very simple things can help with this problem. It is all right for your loved one to wander in a safe place, such as in a fenced yard. By providing a safe place, you may avoid confrontation. If you can’t provide a safe place for your loved one to wander, try the following:
If hallucinations are not making your loved one scared or anxious, you don't need to do anything. It's better not to confront people who have dementia about their hallucinations. Arguing may just upset your loved one. However, if the hallucinations are scary or upsetting for your loved one, try the following:
Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors by Family Caregiver Alliance ( April 11, 2012, http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=391)
Everyday Life With Alzheimer’s Disease by Alzheimer’s Disease Research ( April 11, 2012, http://www.brightfocus.org/alzheimers/livingwith/everydaylife.html)
Education and Care: Behavioral Challenges by Alzheimer’s Foundation of America ( April 11, 2012, http://www.alzfdn.org/EducationandCare/strategies.html)
Behaviors by Alzheimer’s Association ( April 11, 2012, http://www.alz.org/living_with_alzheimers_behaviors.asp)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff