In recent blogs, we have been exploring the topic of cognitive decline. We explored the characteristics of normal cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment and dementia, as well as how to reduce the risk of abnormal cognitive decline. In this final blog, we will explore how to support an individual who is experiencing dementia. Support will vary from person to person and throughout the process.
In the early stages of mild cognitive impairment or dementia, it is wise to communicate often and clearly about current and future needs.
- Get paperwork in order. Estate plans, living wills, etc., if not already in place, should be taken care of as soon as possible. All those involved in decision-making and care will need to clearly understand the wishes of the loved one facing dementia.
- Communicate well. Say what needs to be said. Plan what needs to be planned. That said, don’t tackle too much at once, as that may make this very stressful time even more stressful.
- Encourage health and well being. As we discussed last week, there are things one can do to improve their prognosis.
- Get educated. Learn about the illness your loved one is facing, the treatments, and what to expect. The Alzheimer’s Association is one resource, and your doctor may also be able to provide assistance.
- Get help. Never in history has support been more available. Whether in person or online, support communities, counseling, legal assistance and other organizations may be able to help. Don’t go through this alone.
As dementia progresses, things will sadly get more difficult for both you and your loved one. You may see your loved one becoming more confused, frustrated, sad or irritated. They may experience drastic changes in behavior, some of which can be dangerous, such as wandering. In addition to maintaining regular contact with a physician to monitor disease progression and for other medical conditions, these steps will help.
- Keep a routine. A simple routine can help ease your loved one’s anxiety and lessen confusion. Reminders and reassurances will still be needed.
- Keep it simple. Ask one question or make one request at a time. Don’t argue or reason, especially when they are upset.
- Keep it safe. Remove anything dangerous from the home. Simplify and declutter the environment. Use simple written signs to convey instructions.
- Enlist help. Caregivers need breaks. Otherwise, they are likely to experience burnout, illness and depression. Be honest and open about your loved one’s needs, and ask for help from family and friends.
- Talk to health providers about dangerous or severe behaviors.
The time may come when professional help is needed. For some, this need arises even during early stages of dementia. Others may not require this assistance until it is impossible to be safe when alone for any period of time. AccuCare Home Health of St. Louis is committed to offering the finest home health care in the St. Louis area, delivered with the patience, compassion and peace of mind you expect from a good friend. Whether it is respite care for a family member caring for a loved one, or private in-home health services, we can help. Please call us today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation.