Caring for someone with dementia can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Dementia can influence a person’s behaviour including wandering, depression, anxiety or agitated states, aggression, hallucinations and false ideas, and loss of inhibition. Undoubtedly, it is a big responsibility and may affect your lifestyle choices. This may lead you to feel stressed and anxious.
One of the most challenging parts of dementia is watching the substantial changes in behaviour, which can range from being embarrassing, such as inappropriate outbursts, to provoke worry, such as wandering or hallucinations. The most important thing is not to blame yourself for these changes or feel too embarrassed to seek help or respite care. Don’t isolate yourself or try to handle the changes in behaviour alone.
Many problems associated with dementia care can come from the frustration and stress associated with the changes in communication. As the dementia progresses, the person you care for may find it more difficult to find words, speak fluently, understand, write, read or express emotions. They may also be more easily confused, have increased hand gestures, have inappropriate outbursts, and ignore or interrupt you. Problems with communication can not only lead to the person you care for to feel more stressed and confused, but can leave you frustrated and exhausted. Managing these communication difficulties can help you feel more calm, in control and will help you to not become overwhelmed.
To help you manage communication, follow these Dos and Don’ts:
- Stay calm and allow them time to understand and respond to you
- Keep communication short, simple and clear
- Speak slowly
- Avoid becoming frustrated
- Use closed-ended questions – questions that can be answered using a “yes” or “no”
- Be prepared to use repetition as much as necessary
- Avoid talking in a noisy environment
- Be consistent in your approach to communication
- Remember that they still have feelings and emotions even though they may not always understand what is going on or what you’re saying
- Say things such as asking them “do you remember?” “Did you forget?”
- Use sarcasm or irony, even if they are meant humourously
- Ask questions that challenge their short term memory
- Point out the person’s memory difficulty
- Argue, be condescending, or ask questions that rely on a good memory
- Talk in front of the person as if he or she were not present
Looking after yourself
Here are a few tips you can follow to help you look after your physical and emotional health:
- Plan ahead – planning ahead can help minimise the stress on you. This may include respite care
- Respite care – respite care provides you a break from your caring role, because it is important to look after you
- Talk to a counsellor – seek individual counselling or speak to a health professional about your situation
- Maintain physical health – a healthy helps you to cope with the stress
Article By: Vision Counselling and Psychology, Perth, Western Australia
Web Address: www.visioncounselling.com.au
Published: 08/09/2016 “Caring for Someone with Dementia”, (My Aged Care), Available: http://www.myagedcare.gov.au/caring-someone-particular-need/caring-someone-dementia (Accessed: 2015, February 19).
“Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care”, Russell, D., de Benedictis, T., and Saisan, J. (2014), (Help Guide), Available: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia/dementia-and-alzheimers-care.htm (Accessed: 2015, February 19). Image Reference: Dollar Photo Club