5 Helpful Tactics for Dementia Caregiving
Caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be an incredibly tiring job. From the long hours, to psychological exhaustion, to the physically demanding environment, there are very few ways to actively prepare for and predict the responsibilities that caregiving entails. Silverado’s Director of Clinical Education, Sue Kruse, RN, shares key tactics for managing the day-to-day challenges of dementia caregivers.
1. Communication Through Understanding
According to Kruse, one of the most frustrating problem areas for individuals with dementia and their caregivers is communication. Many times, the person living with dementia may be unable to express their needs, leading them to become increasingly frustrated.
Kruse says that it can be easier to identify the need by attempting to understand what the person with dementia is trying to express. For example, if an individual protests taking a shower, Kruse suggests thinking of alternative ways of presenting a solution.
“Postpone the shower until later in the day, or give the person a reason to take the shower, ‘Your son Bob is coming for lunch today, so we need to take a shower.’” Kruse says.
2. Acknowledgment is Key
Typically, when a person with dementia says something that may not be true, it’s best not to rationalize and correct their thoughts. “If the person says they need to go to school today, make a simple statement such as, ‘Today is Saturday, isn’t it wonderful that we have no school today?’” Kruse says. Because dementia patients can have a false sense of reality, trying to explain something may confuse or frustrate them even more.
3. Know Your Own Limits
With the physical and psychological demands that come with dementia caregiving, studies show that caregivers are at risk for increased health problems, such as chronic fatigue, loss of appetite or even depression. “Caring for someone with dementia is a 24-hour a day job and is overwhelming for anyone,” says Kruse. Therefore, knowing your limits and practicing self-care is critical in order to fully be present and care for your loved one. Kruse advises to take help offered by friends, family, or day care programs.
4. Minimize Disrupted Sleep
Kruse explains that as dementia progresses, sleep disturbances can often occur for both the person with dementia and their caregiver. “The person with dementia can be up during the night attempting to leave the house or rummaging throughout the home, causing the caregiver to be sleep deprived,” Kruse says as an example. Though uninterrupted sleep throughout the night may not always be easy to achieve, taking a few extra steps can minimize distractions so both parties can have restful nights. Try switching off care during night shifts or making the sleeping environment extra comfortable by playing restful music.
5. Never Take Rejection or Frustration Personally
It’s important to remember that changes in mood and personality are caused by chemical changes in the brain, not by daily tasks. “Realize that the person living with dementia is often afraid and confused and this is a defense mechanism,” says Kruse. Learn to compartmentalize their behaviors with performance as a caregiver.
For more information and resources, visit: www.silverado.com/caregiverburnout