Posted: December 2, 2021
Taking care of a loved one with dementia is a stressful task that can easily become exhausting and overwhelming. If you are one of the millions of Americans being a caregiver to an aging parent, family member, or a spouse who requires daily care, know you are not alone and there are many resources and strategies available to you.
Dementia is a collection of diseases with symptoms that cause changes in the brain, affecting cognition, memory, language, sensory and functional abilities. These changes can be frightening and frustrating for people living with dementia; and may lead to outbursts, self-protective actions, changes in personality and withdrawing from people and daily activities. Supporting a person living with dementia can be very difficult for caregivers and family members.
A person living with dementia may experience a variety of changes as they progress in their dementia journey. These changes are expressed in different ways and are often labeled as “behaviors.” We refer to these behavior expressions as unmet needs or distress. As care partners, it is our job to be the best unmet need “detectives” to understand and identify these needs, their triggers, and the best way to fulfill each individual’s need.
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning that interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. There are many illnesses and conditions that cause dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease (AD.) To best care for and support a person living with dementia it is important to have a diagnosis from a medical professional. This can help identify the type of dementia symptoms and even offer some medication to reduce symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
It is normal for our hearing and vision to change as we age. For someone who is living with dementia, these changes are more acute. An individual might reach and grab for objects that are not there or startle easily when you enter a room because they didn’t hear you approaching. They may have trouble eating or drinking because they can’t see their food or utensils, due to severe vision changes. This can lead to hunger or dehydration, anger and withdrawal without supportive care.
People living with dementia may experience frequent falling, hallucinations, and excessive sleep, which could be symptoms of a UTI, or Urinary Tract Infection. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, women are more prone to ‘silent UTIs’ often experiencing no symptoms of pain but displaying profound changes in activity and demeanor.
Communication challenges are common in many types of dementia. The inability to find the right words, can cause feelings of frustration which may lead to emotional outbursts. Difficulties communicating about pain or discomfort, or embarrassment over incontinence can also trigger an expression of an unmet need.
Knowing your loved one’s history and present interests and preferences, being proactive and creating routines and habits, knowing what calms your loved one, is essential to understanding unmet needs and reducing distress. A person with combative and disruptive episodes can be frightening and emotionally exhausting for caregivers. Once the situation has been diffused and the person is safe, it’s important to take time to calm yourself and decompress. During an episode, you may lose your patience and say things you don’t mean or regret.
Communication can be difficult with someone who has dementia, but it is so important for you and your loved one’s well-being. Try these tips to help promote more enjoyable and relaxed interaction.
Be kind to yourself and take a few deep breaths. Forgive yourself. You are not alone in this journey. This is hard! Creating a calm environment, avoiding environmental triggers, and monitoring personal comfort can help prevent agitation. Read more from the.
Dementia is more than just memory loss. It causes changes in mood, judgment and personality, balance, perception, language, and vision. These changes often require increased structure and routine as well as additional care and support to meet the needs of a person living with dementia. At Sugar Fork Crossing, our memory care services strive to be the anchor that keeps your loved one connected to their unique personality, purpose, and joy. Here, we are committed to individualize person-centered care, creating meaningful relationships with each resident, and supporting families and residents to find joyful connections.
Our Rhythms Dementia Philosophy and Program recognizes that dementia changes the way a person experiences the world around them. Our job is to create environments where each person can navigate the world successfully and create a world where life is worth living. We are committed to honoring people wherever they are in the rhythm of their life.