Finding out your loved one is living with dementia can be difficult emotionally, with many new things to consider as they progress along their journey. Changes in cognitive ability can result in difficulty communicating, alterations in behavior and often memory loss. Here we will cover just some tips for caring for your spouse if they are living with dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term describing a variety of different symptoms which can affect someone’s cognitive ability. The most commonly known types of dementia are Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia, although there are many more.
Once someone develops dementia, they will have it for life; the dementia journey can lead to a decrease in cognitive function and many other changes in behavior and care needs.
Changes in Behavior
If your loved one is presenting changes in behavior, which can sometimes be negative, it is important to approach each situation with patience and compassion; it also helps to remember that these changes are not personal towards you.
When approaching changes in behaviour there can be a few different ways to be accommodating to the behaviour. For example, should your loved one insist on doing something, try and find a safe way to complete the task, so as not to control the behavior but rather be creative in expressing it?
Checking with a doctor once you start noticing these changes can also be highly beneficial, as there may be a reason your loved one is expressing these behaviors, such as a response to medication.
A brilliant way to manage challenging or different behavior is to keep a diary of what happened just before you noticed the change, what the behavior was, and your response. This can help to outline what may be triggering certain behaviours and what you can do to help avoid them in the future, or the best ways to deal with them.
Remember you don’t have to manage challenging behaviors on your own; there are many different support systems from charities to care homes and doctors who can help to provide unique tips for your loved one’s behavioral changes.
Dementia can often affect memory, resulting in difficulty remembering people, places or an increase in repetitive speech. It is important to remain patient and calm if your loved one is struggling to recall memories.
There are a variety of different Active Minds dementia activities based around reminiscence which can be highly beneficial for assisting in memory recall; things such as creating a memory box together, going through old photographs, watching a favorite film, or visiting a familiar location. These stimuli can all help to trigger memories and encourage conversation.
As someone progresses along their dementia journey, there may be changes in the way they communicate. While these changes can sometimes be daunting, engaging your loved one in communication can be highly beneficial for their mood and help them feel loved and listened to.
When conversing with your loved one living with dementia, its important to remain patient. Your loved one may repeat certain questions or statements, but it’s important not to become frustrated with this or interrupt them. Give your loved one plenty of time and reassurance as they tell stories or recall memories.
Remember not to be patronizing and to speak in a clear and calm manner. Sometimes it can help to speak a little slower than you normally would, to enable your loved one to engage in conversation.
When encouraging conversation with someone living with dementia, choose a familiar location which is calm and quiet without any distractions or loud noises as these can sometimes cause confusion or agitation. Try encouraging conversation as part of an activity or a game; for example, going through photographs and asking gentle questions surrounding the place or person depicted.
You may notice as your spouse progresses along their dementia journey that they experience a lack of sleep and become more restless and agitated leading up to the night. This is called Sundowning and is a common behavior associated with dementia.
Sundowning is thought to happen due to a variety of different things such as exhaustion, confusion in the biological clock differentiating day and night or dietary influences.
To help overcome and manage Sundowning, try doing little things such as listening to soothing music together before bed, closing curtains and turning on lights before sunset to remove progressive shadows which can cause visual confusion, put a nightlight in the hallway and your loved ones room to keep them safe should they get up in the night and making sure the house is secure and locked with any dangerous items put away.
It can be difficult to come to terms with, but as your loved ones dementia progresses there may be a time where you may need to assist in their everyday care. Things such as helping with bathing, going to the toilet, getting dressed, and ensuring they are eating and drinking enough throughout the day can all be factors to consider.
If you become overwhelmed with your loved ones increased care needs, you can consider getting help from an in house carer, or perhaps even consider a care home full time, which while it may be a difficult decision, can sometimes be best for your loved one’s wellbeing.
Every person’s dementia journey is different, and it can affect people in a variety of ways. While it can be difficult to come to terms with your loved one living with dementia, there are many ways to continue living a happy and healthy life together.