About 47.5 million people are living with dementia worldwide, and this number is expected to triple by 2050. Treatment for dementia has advanced over the past few decades, but dementia care (also referred to as memory care) is still a difficult and heart wrenching experience. Since people who have dementia lose their memories, they often become fearful when they have no idea where they are, what’s happening around them, or why. When they’re in a state of uncertainty, their behaviors often become challenging, and they will withdraw from their environment.
Whether you are a family caregiver or a home caregiver, it is important to be prepared for the challenges of dementia care. Despite dementia being a widespread illness, there are still many stereotypes and unknowns when it comes to treatment and caregiving. Providing quality dementia care will make it both easier on the person who has dementia and on the caregiver.
5 Things to Know About Dementia Care
Dementia is a progressive illness of the brain that impairs a person's ability to remember things, think logically, and carry out everyday tasks. It typically affects seniors, although younger people occasionally get it as well. For seniors with dementia (as well as their families), it's very important to find the right care before the condition progresses too far. People can live for a long time after their illness is first diagnosed. High-quality dementia care can help seniors stay active and independent for as long as possible.
These caregiving tips for dementia care can help:
1. Dementia has three main stages.
In the earliest stage, people with the condition are typically still able to function well. They may have occasional lapses of memory — for example, they might have trouble thinking of a common word, or they might become disoriented in a familiar place. But for the most part, people with early-stage cognitive decline can still live independently, socialize, and do all the other things they're accustomed to doing.
Symptoms become more severe in the middle stage of cognitive decline. At this point, most people will struggle to live independently and take care of themselves. Once cognitive decline progresses to the late stage, people with the condition require almost constant care. Seniors with late-stage cognitive decline may forget where they are, struggle to recognize loved ones, and become unable to walk. Good care can make all the difference in keeping people with late-stage cognitive decline comfortable and happy.
2. Dementia care training will make a world of difference.
Each person living with dementia experiences its symptoms and the inevitable progression differently. It’s helpful to understand the stages of memory loss in order to design programs and activities to address every stage, allowing the individual to experience the best life experience possible.
Reputable home care agencies will offer dementia care training for their home caregivers who are providing dementia care services. Alegre Home Care, for example, provides training under the standards set by the Alzheimer's Association. Home caregivers undergo specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care training on an ongoing basis, so that they can stay up to date with advancements in dementia care. There are also dementia care programs available for family caregivers, as well as conferences and support groups that they can attend.
3. It’s good to reminisce about the past.
Many people with dementia have more problems with short-term memory than long-term memory. In other words, they might remember the distant past better than they remember the last hour. Talking about these past memories can be very comforting. Reminiscing about good times gives people something happy to focus on, and it helps them maintain a secure sense of identity.
Family members and home caregivers can help someone with dementia reminisce by asking them questions about the past, such as, "What was it like to move here when you were first married?" Using props can also help encourage someone with dementia to open up about their memories. For instance, flipping through an old photo album can help spur an afternoon of conversation about the past.
4. Understand that dementia is more than memory loss.
Memory loss is one of the most painful parts of dementia, but it’s wise to understand that this is only a symptom of a much more complex disease. Dementia damages the brain, which attacks the whole system. It affects a person’s thinking, but it also changes their personality and day-to-day functionality.
Symptoms of dementia can include: difficulty communicating, confusion, disorientation, delusions, visual problems, losing track of time, issues with planning, impaired problem-solving, difficulty concentrating, problems with vocabulary (mixing up words, making up new ones), losing things and being unable to retrace steps, challenges with decision-making, changes in behavior, avoiding social activities or hobbies that were usually enjoyed, and changes in mood or personality. Symptoms can be confusing for both the person with dementia and the people around them, but trying to track and understand symptoms is key to managing optimal wellness and functionality.
5. You will need support.
There will always be good and bad days, but in general, caring for someone with dementia is energy-draining and time-consuming. Support when providing dementia care, for family members and home caregivers alike, is necessary in order to prevent things like compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout. Dementia care requires immense mental, emotional, and even physical effort, so don’t be afraid to ask for support and to take breaks in order to rest and recuperate.
Family members can enlist the services of home caregivers for support. This will also allow family members to spend quality time with their loved ones who have dementia rather than always being burdened with dementia care. There are also support groups, community activities, workshops, conferences, and online resources that can help. For home caregivers, a reputable home care agency will supply support services, especially for their caregivers who are providing dementia care to their clients.
The Benefits of Home Care Services
With the right care, seniors with dementia can continue living well for years after their diagnosis. Home care services are typically the best choice, since living normally in a familiar environment is important for seniors with this condition. Dementia care at home can help seniors living with dementia to enjoy their time in peace, dignity, and happiness.
If you are looking for dementia care or home care services, please reach out to Alegre Home Care at one of our Northern California locations. All caregivers complete a thorough reference check, criminal background check, complete competency exams, and conduct a personal individual interview.