As the average life-span continues to increase, a growing number of adults are finding themselves in the position of having to care for an aging parent or loved one. Of the 36 percent of adults in the US who care for an older relative, AgingCare.comâ€™s 2015 State of Caregiving surveyÂ reports that a staggering 51 percent cite Alzheimerâ€™s disease and other forms of dementia as their primary reason for caregiving. Few conditions are more difficult or heartbreaking to contend with than dementia in a relative or friend. Aside from the emotional and financial strain involved, it doesnâ€™t help that the most effective methods for coping with memory loss tend to be counterintuitive.
These six tips from the Alzheimerâ€™s Foundation of America can make it easier for you and your aging relative to deal with dementia.Â
Donâ€™t Rely on Logic
When someone we love is acting irrationally, itâ€™s natural for us to appeal to their sense of reason by carefully explaining the logic of the situation at hand. But itâ€™s important to remember that dementia often prevents people from seeing a situation clearly. By avoiding explanations and sticking with straightforward, simple statements about what will happen in the immediate future, youâ€™ll be less likely to cause additional stress or upset.
On a similar note, avoid asking your loved one not to do something ever again â€“ or even worse, to remember to do something, such as turning off the stove when theyâ€™re done cooking. Simply taking action â€“ like rearranging the home environment to minimize a potential risk to your relativeâ€™s health â€“ tends to be a far more successful approach than discussing a particular matter until youâ€™re both blue in the face.
Donâ€™t Ask. Tell.
While asking someone what they would like to eat may seem like a perfectly normal question, dealing with dementia can make questions like this nearly impossible to answer. Your relative may not be able to find the words to tell you what they would like to eat; and even if they can, thereâ€™s no guarantee that theyâ€™ll still want what they requested by the time you prepare the food or take them to a restaurant. By contrast, simply announcing â€œwe are going to eat nowâ€ and serving the food of your choice encourages them to eat without putting them in the predicament of having failed to respond.â€¨
When the Going Gets Tough, Redirect
People living with dementia often forget crucial facts about their lives, including where they live. If, for example, your aging mother tells you she wants to go home after youâ€™ve just brought her home, assuring her that she is home can often lead to an argument. By redirecting and asking her to tell you about her home, you can diffuse her confusion, anger or panic.
Donâ€™t Feel Guilty About Therapeutic Lying
While most of us were encouraged from a young age to be meticulously honest with people, honesty can often lead to distress where dementia is concerned. Although you may feel compelled to explain to your aging father that his parents are not living but deceased, doing so may cause him to experience that loss as if for the first time â€“ causing undue stress and exacerbating his confusion. Therapeutic lying doesnâ€™t hurt anyone, and can help make your aging relative dealing with dementia more comfortable in a potentially triggering situation.
Be Proactive When it Comes to Their Medical Care
The more actively involved you are in your loved oneâ€™s medical care, the better. Get to know everyone on their medical team, and donâ€™t be afraid to ask questions, express concerns and discuss different treatment options. No matter how good the doctors may be, they canâ€™t possibly know everything about your aging relative â€“ which is why itâ€™s so important you educate them about what you see at home.
Make sure you know what kind of Medicare plan your loved one has â€“ along with whether or not they have a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan. Â If youâ€™re confused about Medicare, SelectQuote Senior can help. All it takes is one phone call to get expert advice on the ins and outs of Medicare. To find affordable and comprehensive Medicare coverage that meets your aging relativeâ€™s needs, call 1-877-217-0389 or visit SelectQuoteSenior.com.Â
Take Care of Yourself, Too
Avoid caregiver burnout by making time for yourself. Remember to eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly. When people offer to help, take them up on it. Keep a list of things they can do to assist you â€“ from preparing meals and picking up prescriptions to staying with your loved one while you run an errand or relax. Support is critical, whether it be from family, friends or a mental health professional. Not only will it help you personally, but it will help you be a better caregiver to your relative battling dementia.
While dementia is no walk in the park, these six tips for dealing with dementia can help make it more bearable for your loved one â€“ and yourself. For more information about Alzheimerâ€™s disease and other forms of dementia, visit the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America website.