If you know someone, or have a close relationship with someone living with dementia, then you’ll more than likely have seen the effects it can have on the simplest of everyday things – from eating habits to behavioural changes.
The trouble is that many of us are unsure of how best to help our loved ones – after all, very few of us are trained in the ability to manage such health conditions.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to have any medical training or qualifications to help your loved one live the best life they possibly can. Of course, specialist needs will require medical attention, but as a loving family member or carer, you can adapt your responses and behaviour in a more dementia friendly way.
Keep reading to discover 5 effective tips on supporting a loved one who’s living with dementia.
- LISTEN WHOLEHEARTEDLY
Often, when you’re spending time with someone who has dementia, one of the best things you can do is simply listen – and listen wholeheartedly. Not only will your loved one have the ability to communicate their feelings and wishes in a distraction-free environment, but there’ll likely be less instances of misunderstandings and confusion.
Those with dementia highly value trusting relationships. By showing that you’re listening carefully to their thoughts, beliefs and personal needs, you’ll quickly build upon that invaluable bond.
- ADOPT A POSITIVE MINDSET
It can be easy to slip into a negative state of mind when you’re in the presence of someone who is living in an alternate reality. Similarly, if you’re caring for your loved one on a daily basis, feelings of exhaustion and self-doubt can be common.
It’s important, though, to try and bat away the negative thoughts. Remaining as positive as you can will not only help you to cope better, but it will create a safer, more hopeful environment for your loved one, who may well be experiencing feelings of anxiety or helplessness.
You can try to adopt a more positive mindset in a few different ways:
- If you feel that your negative emotions are getting overwhelming, take a break and head out for an outdoor stroll.
- Try to look for the positives in every situation, rather than the potential negative outcomes. Meditation can help train the mind to do this more easily; try following the Headspace app if you haven’t already tried this.
- Speak to someone if you’re really struggling. Age UK and Mind charity can be really helpful with advising on coping mechanisms in situations such as these.
- UTILISE WRITTEN REMINDERS
Written reminders are an extremely helpful way to help your loved one cope with memory loss. Diaries and/or wall calendars are a great place to start, and can be used to note down the day’s activities. Week-to-view diaries can be particularly helpful as a visual memory aid.
Sticky notes and list pads are great memory aids to use, too. For example, if you need to remind your loved one that their lunch is in the fridge, try writing it out on a sticky note and attaching it to the fridge door – or, alternatively, in a place you know they’ll be when lunchtime comes around.
Try to encourage your loved one to keep a personal diary/journal, too. Writing a few sentences about each day and sticking in some photos can really help to bring a sense of comfort when it’s needed most.
- GIVE THEM OPTIONS WHEREVER POSSIBLE
Although it can be easy to get stuck in the habit of caring for your loved one on the most personal levels, it’s important to remember that they should have an input on their daily activities.
One of the best ways you can help to maintain a sense of autonomy is by giving them simple choices (note that it’s important to not overload them with options). For example, if you’re picking their outfit for the day, give your loved one two options to choose from. Or, if it’s dinner time, offer them two different dish options.
- LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
This may seem counterintuitive; but rather, it’s one of the most important points in this article.
As your loved one’s carer/guardian, it’s really important that you take the time to look after yourself. If you’re feeling mentally drained and physically exhausted, how can you possibly give your loved one the best care and attention they need?
Never feel guilty about taking time out for yourself; even if that means seeking out respite care options for a week or two whilst you take a well-earned break. It’s important that you’re in your best mental, physical and emotional state if you are to build the loving, trusting relationship with your loved one that’s so integral to dementia care.
At Foxholes, our respite options support carers who need to take some time away from their daily duties – as well as the elderly who may, equally, benefit from a change of scenery. To find out more, please click here.