Dealing with Dementia- Top Tips, Pt. 1

Photo:  John Moeses, Unsplash

What are the most effective tips you find helpful when dealing with a loved one living with dementia?  We hear that it can be challenging to deal with changing behaviours, or unknowns.  We have put together a list of the common challenges we hear, and a tip for each.  We hope that these will offer a fresh perspective for consideration.  It can be difficult in the moment to step back and consider these tips, but we hope that a simple reminder is helpful.  We’d love to hear from you in the comments below about what tips have resonated most with you.

Challenge: My loved one won’t eat their meal.

Tip: People living with dementia are vulnerable to confusing stimuli.  If there is a noisy pattern on the china on which the meal is served, it can distract from the task of eating the food.  Buy white plates and serving meals on plain china can reduce the mental clutter for them to focus on the task at hand.

Challenge: My loved one refuses to take their medication.

Tip:  If something doesn’t work the first time, walk away, and try again in 10 minutes.  Refocus your loved one’s attention on something else for a few minutes, and present the medication again when they have calmed down.  If they are in a state of distrust or agitation, let it go, and try again.

Challenge: My loved one repeats behaviours or seems obsessed with certain objects or matters (ie: vaccuums the same area repeatedly)

Tip: Your loved one remembers how they were able to contribute to the household in better days.  They want to continue to contribute, and see their contribution valued.

Challenge: The unpredictability of my loved one’s behaviour at appointments can frustrate everyone.

Tip: Wherever possible, try to book appointments early in the day, or whenever your loved one experiences the “best” time of day, when they are the best rested, and most cooperative.  While this won’t guarantee success, it sets up the best chance for success.

Challenge: I want to find activities that I can include my loved one in, but they don’t have the capacity to participate like they used to do.

Tip: Recognize that it is ok if they aren’t participating for the “whole” activity.  If there’s a way to include them in a portion of an activity.  For example, recently a caregiver spoke about making pies.  Her loved one used to help fill the pies with the fruit, but is bed-ridden.  They managed to take some of the leftover pie dough, and bring it to the bedside table, where the loved one could make a mini-pie, fill it with strawberry jam, and create a mini-popover.  When it had baked, they could enjoy a small treat together.  This activity let the loved one feel included in the day’s activity, but was short enough that they could maintain their attention.  Present only one step at a time, to prevent overwhelm.

Challenge:  It is completely overwhelming.  I am the only caregiver.

Tip:  Remember that you deserve a life outside of caregiving.  It is important to find time to maintain your interests and hobbies.  Look for services that can help- things like adult day programs, support groups, home health agencies, care consultants or counsellors, meal and homemaker programs.  Connect on a platform like Tusk. Remember that your loved one isn’t giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time.