Dementia and Alzheimer's disease can be difficult for both the person with the condition and their caregivers. As caregivers ourselves, we know how important it is for you to do everything you can to make sure your loved one is comfortable and safe. Here are some tips on how to be the best dementia or Alzheimer's caregiver you can be.
One of the most important things you can do as a dementia or Alzheimer's caregiver is to communicate clearly and effectively with your loved one. Make sure to speak slowly and clearly, using short, simple sentences. Your loved one will need time to process anything you are telling them or asking them to do.
Approach is everything! Your body language and tone may tell your loved one as much the actual words you are saying. Try to maintain eye contact and use facial expressions and gestures to help communicate your message. If your loved one is having difficulty communicating, try to find alternative ways to communicate, such as writing down your conversations, using pictures, or even sign language. Breaks are always good too. If they aren’t getting it, leave it, and come back to the conversation in a few minutes.
You cannot reason with someone living with dementia. There is no convincing them that you are right. So figure out a way to help them feel validated. Sometimes just repeating back to them what they are saying helps them feel heard, and then they may be ready to hear/process what you have to say.
Dementia and Alzheimer's can be frustrating for both caregivers and people living with the disease. It is important to be patient and understand that your loved one may not be able to do things the way they used to. Your person is changing and you are both experiencing grief and loss. Expect that things will usually not go as planned, and be prepared to go with the flow.
Try not to get angry or frustrated if things don't go according to plan. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. Sometimes less is more. Give you and your person a break. Always remember that your person isn’t giving you are hard time, they are having a hard time.
Sometimes the hardest thing is asking for help. Caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's can be overwhelming, so it is important to create a support system of family and friends who can help out when needed. Delegate tasks among family members and friends so that no one person feels overwhelmed. It is also important to take time for yourself so that you don't become burned out.
Remember, people WANT to help. When friends and family are watching you struggle, they wonder what they can do to help. Invite them to come do some activities with your person, have them take your person out to lunch or coffee. If it works better to have them stay at the house, that is a great option too.
Make sure to schedule regular breaks throughout the day so that you can take a break from caregiving duties. Needing a break doesn’t make you a bad caregiver. You can’t pour from an empty vessel, so do what you need to keep your cup at least a little full. Lastly, don't hesitate to reach out to professional organizations or respite care services if you need additional help or support. At Connectivities, we’ve created our own community of support full of people going through these exact experiences. Click here to join!
All in all, we know that caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's can be challenging, but it is also immensely rewarding. By following these tips, you can be the best caregiver you can be for your loved one.
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