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5 Ways to Care for a Loved One with Dementia

You are not alone. Over 15 million people in the United States are caring for someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a long journey, and although it may be tough at times, the reward of bringing joy to your loved one will make the long road ahead worth it.

Educate Yourself

A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s can deeply affect all parties involved, and you may find yourself easily sidetracked. Take a deep breath and evaluate the situation. If you find yourself questioning the diagnosis, it may be a good idea to seek a second opinion. However, if the diagnosis is accurate, the best thing to do is prepare.

Now is the time to educate yourself. Dementia differs from person to person, and with 86 different types of dementia, it is important to distinguish which kind is affecting your loved one. The different variations may impact your loved one’s memory, medications, and behaviors.

Take Action

Notifying your family of the diagnosis can help with determining a plan of action. Family members should aim to understand the diagnosis as well. This is a good time to discuss future plans and who is willing to help care for your loved one.

Moreover, complete documents such as a living will, durable power of attorney, and healthcare surrogate and ask your loved one for any financial information that you may need. Many of those diagnosed will live more than 20 years following the diagnosis, but careful preparation in the early stages of the disease is recommended.

Be Patient

As dementia progresses, so will your loved one’s symptoms. It’s easy to grow frustrated and overwhelmed, but remember that your loved one feels the same. Creating an uplifting environment and evoking positive emotions is crucial.

Some become depressed, others aggressive. It is often unpredictable, but patience and open communication is helpful. Mood swings should be handled delicately. Listen to your loved one. Ask them to explain or tell you more about what’s on their mind, and if it doesn’t make sense, just listen and offer affection. Keep your sentences simple and avoid arguments. Show a positive attitude, even when you’re troubled, and if your loved becomes agitated, try to subtly change the subject.

Talk to the Doctor

Be honest. Your loved one’s doctor needs transparency. Make sure that they’re aware of all medication that your family member is taking and of any unusual actions or emotions they are demonstrating. If your loved one is showing signs of depression or aggressive behaviors, notify their doctor immediately. Never underestimate the behaviors of your loved one.

Don’t Forget About Yourself

Remember, no one is perfect, and you’re doing the best you can. This is a difficult time and you may find yourself overwhelmed, but give yourself all the credit in the world. You’re helping someone that you love, and your selfless actions are not going unnoticed. Allow yourself “me” time and take care of yourself. It’s perfectly fine to ask for a break.

Caregiving is a rewarding job, and caregiving for someone you love is life-changing. Alzheimer’s and dementia can cause a great deal of stress, but it’s important to make the best of every day by offering your loved one the support and affection that they need and deserve.

If you have questions about assisted living services for your loved one, call us at 603-526-2300 or Contact Us.

7 Tips to Prevent Falls

7 Tips to Prevent Falls for Your Loved Ones

From a young age, we are taught that falls are simply a part of life. A scraped knee or bruised leg are easy to ignore at a young age, but the same should not be said about the elderly. One out of four adults age 65 and older fall each year. Due to weakened bones and chronic medical conditions, every fall should be taken seriously. Taking appropriate actions and learning ways to reduce falls can help your loved one remain independent and avoid serious injury.

Discuss with a Doctor

Encourage your loved one to see their doctor to discuss fall prevention. Many chronic conditions increase the risk of falling, and with more than 90% of seniors being affected by conditions such as stroke, diabetes, and arthritis, it is important to learn how these diagnoses can affect gait and balance.
Moreover, be sure to take a list of medications your loved one is taking to the appointment— this includes vitamins and ointments. Some prescriptions can cause dizziness and drowsiness on their own or when combined with others. It is imperative to have the general practitioner and all specialists aware of any current prescriptions and dosages your loved one is taking.

Wear Proper Fitting Shoes

Chronic conditions such as gout, diabetes, and polyneuropathy can cause feet to swell, leading to poorly fitted footwear that is often accompanied by pain. Speak with your loved one’s doctor or podiatrist about setting up regular foot checks, and ask if orthopedic shoes could be a good choice.

Regardless of your loved one’s medical conditions, shoes should not restrict movement or feel tight. Avoid high heels, thong sandals, loose slippers, and shoes that are tight around the toes.

Stay Healthy

It’s important for people of all ages to stay active. With a doctor’s approval, light exercise such as stretching, walking, and water aerobics could aid in preventing falls. When performed regularly, these activities can improve strength, balance, and coordination and may aid in slowing down the progression of osteoporosis.

Speak with your loved one’s doctor if they develop a fear of falling or getting hurt during times of physical activity. Many geriatric clinics offer monitored exercise classes or can refer them to a physical therapist. Keeping bones strong and healthy can help keep your loved one safe from falls and speed up recovery if the unfortunate happens.

Use Assistive Devices

The chances of developing mobility and disability issues increase with age, but assistive devices could help keep your loved one grounded. Encourage the use of canes, crutches, and walkers if appropriate. These devices help to shift weight and provide a foundation to rest on. However, keep in mind that not all assistive devices are the same. Your loved one’s doctor may recommend a certain device that fits their needs, and sizes and heights should always be considered.

If you find that your loved one is having trouble getting around, there are many assistive devices that can help. Investing in the following could keep your loved one safe and living independently:

  • Grab bars inside and outside of the shower and beside the toilet
  • Hand rails for the stairs and bed
  • Hand-held shower heads
  • Sturdy toilet seat raisers
  • Shower benches
  • Slip-resistant mats

Tidy Your Home

Along with the proper assistive devices, a clean living space can keep your loved one from falling. As a simple rule, always discard trash as soon as possible. Piled up boxes, food containers, and newspapers could easily find their way to the floor and cause falls. Electrical cords should be tucked away, and smaller furniture and floor décor should be placed away from high-traffic areas. In addition, rugs should be slip-resistant and secured on all corners.

Think about your family member’s day-to-day tasks and make sure that the things they use regularly are organized and within reach. It’s easy to put off tidying up, but staying on top of it will improve your loved one’s safety in the long run.

Schedule an Eye Exam

Vision problems can arise for a variety of reasons. Glaucoma, diabetes, and age can impair vision, making it difficult to see. Keeping your loved one’s area well-lit can be helpful. Bedside lamps should be within easy reach and night lights can make hallways and dark rooms safer. When changes in vision occur, encourage your loved one to obtain an eye exam. Eye exams should be conducted annually. However, some people require more frequent check-ups

Be Honest

Being honest with your loved one and their physician. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “falling once doubles your chances of falling again.” Falling can cause serious injuries that can result in disabilities and depression. Keeping your loved one healthy is a critical component in their ability to live independently or with limited monitoring. If you find your loved one holding onto walls or objects, being fearful of falling, or having almost had a fall, approach the subject with them in a sensitive and caring way, then speak with their doctor about the best next steps.

Falls happen, but many falls can be prevented. No matter how “small” the fall, be sure to notify your loved one’s practitioner. Their independence depends on their health and safety. Taking precautions and preparing could help in avoiding serious injury, now and in the future.