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7 Ways to Cope When Someone You Love Has Dementia
When your loved one has dementia, you might feel stressed and powerless at times when helping them through their new challenges.
Dementia is when an individual’s cognitive abilities decline and they have trouble remembering people, places, and things. People with dementia will also forget how to do tasks as well as lose their sense of orientation.
However, staying positive and being a pillar of support is essential to helping your family member or friend feel safe and loved. Many people with dementia will oftentimes feel stressed, depressed, or anxious as they struggle to understand their new mental condition.
It’s important to be there to help guide your loved one as they learn to navigate their dementia. Here are 7 ways you can cope with the idea of your loved one having dementia as well as some ways you can support them.
Accept the Diagnosis
It’s never easy to learn that someone has dementia, especially since their life will need to be altered and adjusted for the condition. Many people who have dementia also progress into needing full time care around the clock, and this can cause many difficult emotions to arise.
Accept the diagnosis of your loved one by talking to their doctor and learning more about how their dementia will progress. You should also understand if they need any medications and know if there are steps you can take to slow the progression.
You should also take care of any financial, legal, and other obligations that your loved one might have. This will help make the transition easier as their dementia progresses because you know that everything is taken care of.
You can also start preparing your home if you plan on directly caring for someone who has dementia. This could involve things such as moving the locks to places where your loved one can’t easily access and making the rooms safer for them to move around in.
Learn About Dementia
Another first step to coping when learning someone has dementia is broadening your knowledge about it. Having an understanding of how dementia works and what to look for means you can find the right support for your loved one as soon as you notice behavioral changes.
Here are two websites that can help you learn more about dementia:
- The Alzheimer’s Association. The Alzheimer’s Association helps people who develop Alzheimer’s, which is one of the most common forms of dementia. Their website has resources for learning about Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as ways you can find the right care for your loved one. The Alzheimer’s Association also hosts events such as The Walk to End Alzheimer’s to help spread awareness and support research efforts.
- Dementia.com. Janssen Pharmaceutica’s website, dementia.com, provides many webpages and articles to help their site visitors learn about dementia, the symptoms, causes, and how people can cope when their loved one has it. This database can help you learn more about dementia and ways you can get started on helping your loved one.
Create a Positive Atmosphere
The way you interact with your loved one can make the difference in how they respond and react to the world around them. As you cope with their dementia, you should strive to never treat them differently than you have before.
Setting a positive, happy tone can help your loved one feel relaxed and safe in their environment. Your actions and social cues will also give your loved one a sense of the mood. Sometimes your expressions, attitude, and body language can tell your loved one more about the atmosphere than your words.
You should always speak to your loved one in a way that’s pleasant. Be patient with them, and only help them with tasks if they ask for it. You should also avoid using body language that shows annoyance or makes them out to be a burden, since your loved one might react negatively.
Staying positive can help your loved one with dementia feel included when you are interacting with them.
Stay Calm During Episodes
Many people with dementia will become angry when asked to do a simple task or if they are incapable of understanding where they are. While this may be heartbreaking and difficult to witness, staying calm during angry episodes is one key way to cope when someone has dementia.
You shouldn’t force your loved one to do a task, such as taking a medication, if they refuse. You also should never try to trick your loved one into doing something or come up from behind them. Give them space if needed or talk to them in a calm voice to try to understand the problem.
You should avoid being aggressive or yelling back at your loved one if they begin to give you difficulty. This will only result in them becoming violent or scared. Many people with dementia won’t understand why you are getting upset, and this will only escalate the issue.
Giving your loved one time to explain themselves can help you work through the challenges that they currently face.
Answer Questions in a Simple Way
People with dementia will oftentimes ask many questions, whether they are simple things they should already know or stories from their past. Many people with dementia will also ask questions repeatedly because they don’t remember the answer you gave them ten minutes ago.
One way to cope with this is to answer your loved one’s questions in a simple way. Since people with dementia won’t be able to grasp long stories or complicated topics, answering them simply can help them understand what you are trying to tell them.
You should be patient with your loved one for asking a question, even if they asked you it several times throughout the day. A negative reaction can cause your loved one to feel stressed and anxious, and they may not understand why you’re feeling frustrated.
You can also try using physical cues when interacting with your loved one to help them feel involved in the conversation. People with dementia will oftentimes be able to respond to touch and objects that are around them.
Enjoy Usual Activities Together
You and your loved one have shared many activities that you enjoyed doing throughout the years. Even though the person you love has dementia, that doesn’t mean they still can’t do things that they used to love.
Giving your loved one the opportunity to participate in the activities they once enjoyed can give you and them a chance to reconnect. You may have to alter some of the activities to fit their needs, but you can still enjoy doing things with them. After all, people with dementia will still seek fun and entertainment in their daily lives.
For example, if your loved one enjoys movies, you can set up a family movie night at home to help them recapture that experience. If they like cooking, giving them small tasks that aren’t dangerous to them such as mixing ingredients can help them feel involved. If you and your loved one like going out to lunch, bring them to their favorite restaurant and order something that they want to eat.
Having your loved one be part of activities can help you reconnect to them and create new memories for years to come.
Join a Support Group
As you adjust to the changes in your loved one’s life, know that you aren’t alone. There are other people in your local community who are also going through the challenges of learning how to cope with their loved one who has dementia.
Another way to understand and work through your loved one’s dementia is by joining a support group. A support group will be filled with people who are looking to share their experiences and resources for helping their loved ones.
You might learn new ways to cope by listening to people’s stories and how they have been handling their challenges. A support group is also a great way to meet new people and make friends who can be your pillars when you are going through challenging times.
Support groups can be found through Facebook or local dementia organizations in your city. You can also start a support group in your own town if you know several people with loved ones who have dementia. There are also telephone lines available for people who need them.
Saber Healthcare and Memory Care
We know that learning your loved one has dementia isn’t easy, and that there will be many changes in your life.
Here at Saber Healthcare, we have a memory care program to help our residents and their families learn how to cope with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Our professionals will be able to provide your family the support you need to understand dementia and how your loved one will progress. Our person-centered approach can help your loved one live a happy, productive life as they adjust to their new medical condition.
Click here to learn more about the memory care Saber Healthcare provides today.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Dementia.” The World Health Organization, WHO.int. Last Updated September 21st, 2020. Accessed July 12th, 2021. Link: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia