Dementia is a terrible disease that can steal away your loved one slowly. Because it affects the mind, it affects just about every part of your loved one’s life. They forget how to do basic tasks, where they are, who the people around them are, and more. These are just a few of the challenges that come with dementia care.
Fortunately, dementia can progress very slowly. In some cases, people will spend years in stage two or stage three, which is categorized by very mild to mild mental decline. During these stages, your loved one may become a little more forgetful, repeat themselves, or find it difficult to fully think things through and make plans. However, while they may have small personality changes, they don’t completely change. During these stages, you want to talk to your loved one about dementia and about the next steps.
If your loved one is dealing with these early stages of dementia, you want to have a plan for when the disease progresses. It will—sadly, there’s no sure way of slowing or treating dementia. However, you can be prepared for the challenges you and your family will face. Here are some of those challenges along with what you can do to address them and how Reliant Home Care Services can help.
Knowing When Your Loved One Needs Dementia Care
One of the problems with dementia is that the early stages often come on very slowly. It can be hard to tell if your loved one is declining mentally, especially if they were always forgetful or had trouble with complex tasks. When is it a case of, “Oh, Mom, you would forget your head if it wasn’t attached!” and when is it dementia? Even medical professionals may not be able to tell when someone moves from stage one (no decline) to stage two. The same may be true for stage three, especially if your loved one’s dementia is progressing very slowly. You may not realize that they’re forgetting more and more because you’ve become used to it.
The challenge here is that you don’t recognize the signs of dementia, so it’s hard to make a plan for it. Your loved one may no longer be mentally able to fully grasp what they’re dealing with by the time it’s clear they have dementia. This is why it’s important to talk to your loved one about their health on a regular basis. While some may find the idea morbid, discussing your loved one’s plans should they develop dementia or need to be placed on a ventilator or other device is important. You want to know what they would want, especially if you know they’ve appointed your power of attorney over their medical affairs. You don’t want to try to guess what they want or have any arguments with other family members.
One of the key signs of dementia is forgetfulness. Your loved one may start forgetting people’s names or events that happened recently. In the early stages, it may not be that bad. They might forget the name of an old acquaintance, but they will remember people they see on a regular basis. As they start to decline, though, they may begin forgetting these people. Gentle reminders can help, but you may not always be there to provide those reminders.
One thing you can do to address this challenge is to create a memory book with your loved one. This gives the two of you a project to do together, which can be nice. You can create a photo album or scrapbook with pictures of their friends and family. Write down the name of each person in the photo and a little bit about them, such as their relationship. You can create pages dedicated to events, too, such as your loved one’s wedding, favorite vacation, and other key moments. This will help them remember their loved ones and these events.
You can also create a guidebook for your loved one to help them get through the day. This guide will provide basic instructions and information such as when their favorite TV shows are on, when the mail comes, and what to do if they need help. It can include details for fixing basic meals or for operating their cell phone. If you’ve reached the point of needing one of these guidebooks, it’s likely your loved one needs someone to check on them daily. However, they may still be independent enough to be alone for some of the day, especially if they are aware of where they are and how to do most basic tasks such as bathing and operating a microwave.
Your Loved One Experiences Personality Changes
One of the most heartbreaking aspects of dementia is behavior or personality changes. When this occurs, it’s like your loved one is a different person. Some become angry, while others may become withdrawn. Some may start repeating things because they’ve forgotten they already did those tasks, while others may start hiding things or constantly checking and rechecking things like door locks. These behaviors may stem from forgetfulness, but they can also come from being frustrated at their condition or a feeling of loss of control.
Addressing these challenges can be frustrating, especially if your loved one continues with these behaviors after you’ve talked to them about the problem. You will need to remember to be patient. It’s not your loved one’s fault that they’re changing. Remember that the disease is the driving force behind everything. Also remember that it’s okay to feel frustrated, upset, and angry, but don’t take these feelings out on your loved one. When you start to reach this point, it may be best to reach out to Reliant for respite care. Sometimes taking a break can help you process these emotions.
Figuring Out Living Arrangements
While someone in the early stages of dementia may be able to live independently, those who are in the moderate or severe stages will likely need a caregiver. In some cases, that may be you. You may have the option of moving your loved one in with you and caring for them. This is a major undertaking, however, and should not be done without some deep thought. You’re going to be responsible for your loved one’s health. It’s a big step for anyone, and you, your loved one, and your family need to be aware of what it means.
In other cases, another family member may step up. In this case, you’re there for support. You should talk to your family member and determine how often you should visit and what you’re able to take on. If you work a standard job, you may need to take over caring for your loved one on the weekends to give their caregiver a break, or you may need to visit every other evening or make arrangements to take off work every now and then. Remember that being a caregiver is a lot of work and that your family member will need support just as much as your loved one does.
In some cases, there may be no one your loved one can live with. In this case, you may have to look into a care facility. This brings with it its own challenges, including financial ones. You want to make certain that the care facility is going to take proper care of your loved one. Is the staff trained in working with patients with dementia? Is someone available around the clock to help your loved one if needed? You will likely have a long list of questions, and finding a care facility that checks all the boxes while also being affordable can be difficult.
Reliant Can Help with the Challenges of Dementia Care
Dealing with the challenges of dementia care can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? How can you tell if a care provider or facility is really going to be what your loved one needs? If you don’t have many other family members to help you, you can quickly get overwhelmed. Even if you do have several siblings or others who are by your side, there’s still a lot of information to digest and decisions to make.
However, you’re not alone in any of this. Reliant is here to help you every step of the way. We have experience with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and elderly care in general. We can assist you with determining what type of care your loved one needs. Early on, you may be able to serve as your loved one’s primary care provider. In this case, we’re here to offer advice and respite care when you need it.
In other situations, your loved one may need regular visits from a caregiver. Whether you need us daily, weekly, or on a set schedule, it’s not a problem. You and your loved one will work with a care coordinator to determine what works best. As your loved one’s needs change, we’ll re-evaluate their care plan and make changes as necessary. You’ll be involved in every decision, of course, and the ultimate choice is yours and your loved one’s.
Want to learn more? Contact Reliant today.