13 May 10 Ways to Help Individuals and Families Living with Dementia
A dementia diagnosis can be crushing for sufferers and families alike. Learn tips to show support to individuals affected by the disease along with their loved ones.
Dementia is a decline in memory and mental capacity. Mainly affecting older adults, 1 in 7 of those over the age of 70 suffer from dementia, and its numbers are rapidly growing. In addition to memory problems, speaking, and the ability to make decisions, dementia can have other detrimental symptoms as well.
Unlike other symptoms, dementia can be subtle or sneaky, making it easy to miss or ignore in early stages. A diagnosis is never as certain as with many other conditions such as cancer since we do not routinely collect a sample of brain tissue to analyze. There is a lack of specialists trained to manage dementia and even fewer in the pipeline, as well. Despite all this, dementia and related conditions like Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death in America for seniors.
All these concerns and health challenges exist despite the fact that most people have a loved one or close friend with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are many things that you can do to continue to support your loved one that has dementia or a family struggling.
Helping loved ones and families struggling with dementia
The following are 10 tips to provide support and assistance to those you know with dementia, or their families who are often expending a large amount of time and stress to provide for family members.
Be educated about dementia. Learn more about its effects and how you can respond.
Dementia (also referred to as neurocognitive disorders) involves cognitive impairment due to brain damage. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It is also the most common, but there are other types of dementia. Only a comprehensive evaluation by a trained clinician can make an accurate diagnosis.
Celebrate the strengths that still exist.
Just because someone has an impaired memory and declining cognitive skills, it does not mean that they aren’t still human. A dementia sufferer continues to have wants, needs, interests, skills, and other strengths that make them unique. Keep this in mind and you will continue to see their positives shine through, plus you can connect with sufferers along the lines of their assets that make them unique.
Keep in contact
A family or loved one may be struggling with a diagnosis. This can be a very challenging time for the family and group affected, and it probably won’t be getting easier. Stay in touch with the impacted parties. Whether its a card, a phone call, or a text, it’s important to reach out and empathize and demonstrate your concern and support. Even small gestures can make a big difference to struggling families.
Read more of our top resources on dementia and caregiving:
- 18 Myths About Dementia and Alzheimer’s
- How Caregivers and Loved Ones Can Understand the Signs and Stages of Dementia
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s: 10 Tips for Better Communication
- 13 Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Seniors
Patience is crucial, not only when caring for someone living with dementia, but for friends or family that care for dementia patients. When interacting directly with individuals with dementia, effectively communicating will probably be the biggest barrier to test your patience. Check out our tips for effective communication for dementia patients article. The burden of care for a dementia sufferer often is disproportionately placed on one family member, so keep this in mind. Be understanding if plans need to change or if their challenges with caregiving cause other interruptions. Plus, it takes family members a while to adjust to and learn about the best ways to care for affected family members. It takes us some time, if at all, to find out that it requires more than one person to support another living with dementia.
Provide a shoulder to lean on
The disease can push an entire family to the limit. Coping with a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis is a continuing process, with each person reacting differently. Simply extending your support and reiterating your friendship helps. Engage family members in events or activities. Invite them for a walk or participate in other activities. This can help them get their mind off of the daily struggles of caregiving and support, while also bringing joy to both you and the family member in need.
Converse and engage with dementia sufferers.
It’s critical to involve the afflicted individual in conversation. Even when their ability to participate in discussion becomes more limited, providing meaningful engagement to individuals with dementia is important. It can help capitalize on the skills and abilities of those with dementia but the support can also provide a better quality of life for this with dementia along with their family caregivers.
Offer to help the family with errands and tasks.
Caring for those with dementia can often be a huge undertaking. Usually, family members have to learn on the fly and continue to adjust to the ever-changing demands of dementia. As a result, a difficult job is made even more challenging with supporters forced to adapt to a steep learning curve. The tasks associated with dementia can be overwhelming for caregivers often on duty 24 hours a day. By taking the time to provide direct help, no matter how small, it can make a hugely positive impact on the family’s responsibilities. Offer to prepare a meal, provide a ride, or run an errand as a start.
Provide the family with a break
Caregivers need and can benefit greatly from respite care. Spend some time with the individual that lives with dementia.This lets family members visit with friends or go out alone. Whether it’s to have a meal out on the town, run their own errands, or just to catch a movie, doing something that allows family caregivers to recharge and relax helps family caregivers be their best. This also helps those suffering with dementia to receive the best care since it helps loved ones avoid caregivers stress and burnout.
Be flexible (and possibly persistent)
Even individuals that demonstrate the greatest need and help may feel too proud or embarrassed to request or accept help. If your offer for support is not accepted immediately, don’t fret. The family may need time to assess its needs, or realize that they can’t do it alone.
Show your support in the fight against dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Demonstrate your commitment to a cause related to the individual’s condition. You could do a Facebook fundraiser in the name of the person or family affected. You can do a walk or participate in causes that promote health or education on the disease. By being an advocate in disease awareness, early detection, or research, the family will see your commitment and appreciate the support in this manner.
By following these tips, we can banish the fear and avoidance of individuals with dementia and their caregivers. Plus, it can make all the difference by helping both dementia sufferers and their family members have greater dignity, well-being, and quality of life.
Chosen Family Home Care is a Philadelphia and greater Delaware Valley based home care agency that specializes in dementia and Alzheimer’s care at home. Subscribe to our insights page for more senior and caregiving resources for you and your loved one and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.