Last Updated: February 6, 2019
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult job, one that can cause caregivers a great amount of stress. However, if you love someone with dementia, you know that the position can also bring joy into your life and be extremely rewarding as well.
In honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, here are 20 things to remember when caring for a loved one with dementia.
Caregiving and Loving Someone With Dementia
Over 16 million people in the United States alone care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. While the caregiving journey can be rewarding, it is no secret that it can also be overwhelmingly challenging.
As the disease progresses, it becomes easier to forget that your loved one is still present. Many caregivers are frustrated by their loved one’s inability to communicate their thoughts and their inability to remember faces and names. The disease eventually takes away independence so that caregivers become the feet, hands and mind of people struggling with dementia.
Many people who have the disease struggle with depression and some can become violent, further increasing frustration for caregivers. But, despite all these challenges, if you care for and love someone with dementia, it can be extremely rewarding and although it may not be obvious, your loved one is still there, behind the disease.
20 Things To Remember If You Love Someone With Dementia
Here are 20 things to remember when you love someone with Alzheimer’s:
- Be educated about the disease. Learning as much as you can about the progression of dementia can help you empathize with and understand your loved one.
- Be realistic in your expectations for yourself and your loved one. Set realistic goals and learn to expect the unexpected. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations as your loved one struggles with Alzheimer’s.
- Develop predictable routines and schedules. As the disease progresses it is more important than ever to have set routines and schedules. This can help to eliminate confusion and frustration for your loved one.
- Do not argue with your loved one. Arguing with your loved one about a forgotten memory will only upset them and further frustrate you. Be willing to let most things go.
- Don’t underestimate the power of good nutrition. Studies have linked dementia to lifestyle choices, including poor nutrition. Limiting refined sugars and increasing vegetables can help manage behavioral issues.
- Give them independence when possible. As tempting as it may be to do everything for your loved one, it is important for them to do as many things as possible by himself or herself, even if you need to start the activity.
- Have fun! Your loved one can still have fun. Trips to local museums, parks and even the zoo can be enjoyed by someone with Alzheimer’s.
- Maintain a current list of medications and dosages of medications. This will ensure you always know when their next dose of medication will be and you will be able to accurately share any medication information with doctors or other caregivers.
- Meet your loved one in the now. Don’t try to change your loved one back into the person they once were. Grieve the loss of your loved one and then love them as they are right now.
- Plan daily time for physical exercise. It’s important to focus on the health of your mind, but also your body during this time. Physical exercise can help, especially if you plan time for it each day.
- Rely on family members and other loved ones when needed. After everything you have done to support your loved one with dementia, remember that you also need support for yourself as well. Turn to family members and other loved ones when you need them.
- Remember that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not a death sentence. Many people with the disease live more than 20 years following diagnosis. Take advantage of the time you have left with your loved one.
- Remember that your loved one can remember emotions even after they forget the actual event that caused those emotions. Your actions and words matter!
- Remember the person is more than the disease. When someone is diagnosed with dementia, it can be devastating to them and their loved ones. Hold on to who you know they are, before the diagnosis.
- Take a deep breath! Caregiving is a big responsibility but you are doing a great job.
- Take care of yourself. When caregivers do not care for themselves they can experience caregiver burnout. Be sure to take a few minutes to yourself every day and join a local or online caregiver support group.
- Take immediate action to complete essential documents, like living wills.
- The disease is responsible for their mood and personality changes. It can be so hard to watch a loved one change before your eyes. Remember that they are not changing, but the disease is progressing.
- Understand your own emotional and physical limitations. Act accordingly to avoid caregiver burnout.
- Use every method of communication to reach your loved one through the disease. Art, music and reading are all ways to connect with your loved one when verbal expression is no longer an option. Even a simple touch on their arm can help communicate that they are loved.
Do you have any other things to remember if you love someone with dementia, that you’d like to add to our list? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.