Over six million Americans have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. This diagnosis can be devastating and challenging for families, as they watch their loved one’s mental and physical capabilities deteriorate over time.
Caring for someone with dementia takes extra effort, patience, and understanding. If you are currently serving as a guardian for your loved one, here is a list of dementia do’s and don’ts.
To foster a happy and healthy relationship, there are some things you can do when taking care of a loved one with dementia as a guardian.
Do Create a Positive Environment
For those with dementia, an environment with little distraction and change is important. A calm setting can reduce confusion, frustration, and anxiety. Simple things like setting the thermostat to a comfortable temperature and dimming the lights can make a world of difference.
Developing a schedule is another way to create a positive environment for your loved one. Change can be stressful for someone with dementia, but having a routine can bring a sense of stability to their world. Keep in mind that they may not stick to the schedule perfectly or want to do it at all some days, and it’s fine to remain flexible. The idea is that the structure is there for them if needed.
Speaking to your loved one in an encouraging way can also bring positivity to their daily life. Rather than saying “don’t do that” or “you can’t do that anymore,” try “let’s do this instead” or “why don’t we try it this way?” A simple change in tone and wording can be quite impactful.
Do Treat the Person with Respect and Dignity
Just because your loved one’s mental capacity has changed doesn’t mean they should be treated like a child. Respond to your loved one’s feelings and emotional cues with empathy and understanding. Speak positively and encourage their conversations, even if you’ve had the same dialogue many times before.
Be supportive of the person’s independence. While you may have to make modifications based on your loved one’s ever-changing abilities, provide opportunities for independence. Allow them to do what they always have as long as it’s safe. For example, if your loved one always got the newspaper in the morning but now has the tendency to wander off, suggest getting the paper together. Be creative and figure out how to support your loved one’s independence.
Do Make Things Simple
Dementia impairs a person’s brain functions, making it difficult to process a lot at once. When speaking with your loved one, remember to simplify your sentences and speak clearly. If giving an instruction, keep the steps short and concise. Remember, even if your loved one doesn’t communicate that they understand what you’re saying, watch their actions. They may have absorbed more than you think.
Do Ensure Proper Care
Make sure your loved one is adequately cared for when it comes to eating, drinking, bathing, dressing, and all other types of self-care. Keep in mind that what someone with dementia can do today, they may not be able or remember to do tomorrow. As their guardian, it is your responsibility to ensure the individual is getting proper nutrition, hydration, and practicing good hygiene.
Do Be Patient and Flexible
For someone with dementia, their emotions and capabilities are constantly changing. You have to take things day by day and even moment by moment. As mentioned above, having a schedule for the day or week can be beneficial for your loved one, but don’t expect it to go quite as planned. You are responsible for taking the appropriate action based on how the other person is feeling.
Do Reach Out to Others for Help
There are plenty of resources available to guardians of those with dementia. Start with family members and ask for help. If you need professional support, there are plenty of organizations that have resources and services available.
When taking care of a loved one with dementia as a guardian, there are certain things you shouldn’t do.
Don’t Mock Their Emotions or Behavior
It can be difficult for those with dementia to express their true feelings. Sometimes what they express isn’t even exactly how they feel, but they’re unable to do it in another way. If your loved one responds to a situation with intense emotion, don’t downplay it and tell them “it’s not a big deal” or to “stop acting like that.” Be empathetic and understanding by digging deeper and asking why they feel a certain way. Hopefully, this will create a stronger level of comfort and trust with you.
Those with dementia often struggle with the following types of behavior:
- Repeating actions or speech,
- Paranoia, and
These behaviors can be incredibly difficult to handle, but expressing your frustration will only make the situation worse. Scolding a loved one for their actions is not appropriate, especially because he or she might not even know they’re misbehaving.
Don’t Act As If Your Loved One Can’t Understand You
While your loved one may not have the same mental capacity as before, he or she is still present. Granted, they may understand what you say one day and forget it the next, but in that moment your loved one knows if you’re talking about them. This can be quite upsetting and may cause him or her to either lash out or shut down.
Don’t Be Afraid
Once someone is diagnosed with a type of dementia, there’s no going back. This disease takes hold and changes your loved one forever. But while your family member or friend is still with you, embrace your time together. Continue to grow your bond and make memories, even if you’re the only one who will remember.
Contact the Attorneys at Beller & Bustamante, P.L.
If you have any questions about our list of dementia do’s and don’ts or guardianships, feel free to contact the lawyers at Beller & Bustamante, P.L. We have over 40 years of experience helping clients navigate the guardianship process and the ongoing obligations of a guardian. To schedule a consultation today, call 904-288-4414 or submit an inquiry online.