It started about four years ago when she was about 76 years old. There was nothing wrong with her comprehension. One could have a straight, intelligible conversation with her. There was, what everyone thought then, occasional forgetfulness. She won’t recall where she had put her eyeglasses or names of grandchildren whom she interacts with daily. There was even a fun phase and plenty of teasing back and forth.
But as the years went by, it became worse. Now, it’s like she’s living her life again when she was a teenager, recalling stories of previous boyfriends, and asking everyone in the house who they all are. She has dementia, and you will be battling with her syndrome. Initially, care in a nursing home near Ogden was considered. Everyone voted it down. You will all take care of your mom. “What kind of challenges lie ahead?” is the question on everyone’s mind. How do you take care of a loved one with dementia?
Here are a few things to remember:
An Overview of Dementia
Alzheimer’s is one of the many forms of dementia, and in 2014, an estimated five million people were diagnosed with the illness. That is roughly 1.6% of the U.S. population for that year. The projection is that the number will reach nearly 14 million by 2060.
Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and mixed dementia are just some of the types of dementia. It is estimated that between 60-80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s.
Caring for Your Loved One
Theirs is a different world now. Perhaps one of the things that you will have to learn is that you shouldn’t force them to live in your world. You should try to live in theirs. Here are a few more things that you should take note of:
- Learn. Read up about what the disease is all about. It’s hard for anyone to exercise empathy without having any knowledge of the things they are dealing with. Talk with medical practitioners or other people who have had or has similar experiences to yours.
- Take care of yourself. You won’t be able to provide the proper care for your loved one if you aren’t healthy, or you’re frustrated and distracted. You need to create a plan that maximizes the support from everyone. This involves having schedules, taking turns, and commitments by everyone to an agreement. Ask for help or accept offers of help, whether it be to get groceries for you or picking up clothes from the cleaners. Take up your friends’ offer to do these tasks. It will help keep you sane and healthy.
- Prepare for the nasty. They will slide toward aggressive behavior even if it’s just through language, like expressing anger or refusing to do things that they should normally do (e.g., take a shower). The worst thing to do in this situation is bringing in your frustration and engage their negative behavior. Sometimes, just walking away and giving them space might be the best thing to do.
- Simple communication. Patience is critical in the way you communicate with a loved one with dementia. Ask questions that are answerable by yes or no. Clearly state your messages and do not overwhelm them with complex statements. The tone of your voice is crucial to the communication process, too. Speak softly and in a reassuring tone.
The road ahead is not going to be easy. It can be emotionally and physically draining. Acceptance will be necessary for moving forward. Be patient, and continue to give love. And keeping your humor will also go a long way.