Being a carer for someone with Alzheimer’s or a related neurological disease can be a challenge as your loved one struggles with a loss of brain function and memory problems. Here we give some tips on how to take care of a person with dementia.
Improve communication with your loved one by being positive and affectionate. Minimise distractions and use non-verbal cues such as touch to reinforce a message. Use simple words and sentences and pitch your voice low. Questions with yes or no answers are best - don’t give too many choices. Keeping a sense of humour can help you to laugh together.
Having a well-balanced diet is important. Those living with dementia often don’t drink enough, leading to urinary tract infections, constipation and headaches. Other food problems include forgetting the taste of food and drink, not recognising food or refusing food. Try to involve the person in preparing meals to reduce stress. Experiment with different flavours and use finger foods if they struggle with cutlery.
Incontinence and forgetting where the toilet is can be upsetting. Be understanding and remember it’s not their fault. Try to establish a toilet routine, and schedule fluid intake regularly. Having a daily walk is good for regular bowel movements. Your GP can advise on incontinence pads and waterproof bedding.
People with dementia often have difficulty with hygiene and find being undressed traumatic. Following familiar bath routines can be reassuring. Bath seats, non-slip mats and grab bars can help prevent falling while the incapacitated may require bed baths.
To assist with dressing, choose comfortable, loose-fitting clothes with easy zips or velcro fastenings. Lay clothes out in the order they are to be worn.
Those with dementia may become disoriented in the night, as dementia can affect the body clock. You can try putting a dementia-friendly clock showing the time of day next to the bed, cutting out alcohol and caffeine in the evenings, and installing blackout blinds.
You may feel isolated or guilty, or have negative feelings towards your loved one. Remember that this is normal, and your needs matter too.
As the symptoms progress, you may wish to investigate specialist live-in care. An agency such as Guardian Carers will be able to tailor support to your unique needs, as we have years of experience and know how to take care of a person with dementia in the later stages of the disease.