Dementia is an all-encompassing term that describes a condition of widespread decline in cognitive function. Alzheimer’s disease is just one of its many specific types, and all forms of dementia share the progressive decline or impairment of cognitive function that makes managing day-to-day tasks difficult.
People with dementia need assistance with daily tasks, personal care, and decision-making. Knowing the essentials can be helpful if you find yourself in a situation where you need to provide care for someone with dementia.
Understanding The Basics
It’s crucial to remember that dementia can impair decision-making skills, develop memory issues, and cause behavioral changes. Providing support for somebody with dementia can be physically and mentally challenging. However, you can turn to several resources such as online dementia care to guide you along the way. Here are some valuable insights when caring for somebody with dementia.
As the cognitive decline progresses, the symptoms of the disease worsen. A person will typically experience stress, anxiety, and fear because they find it difficult to perform the simplest tasks. In such circumstances, supporting the individual should be a top priority.
Adding memory aids at home will help them remember their daily tasks and the location of things. For example, leaving sticky notes with the list of tasks and labeling the doors, drawers, and cupboards with instructions can make their life easy.
Eating And Drinking
When caring for an individual with dementia, it’s important to maintain a good diet and proper hydration. However, assistance is necessary since some may not drink enough fluids because they don’t realize they’re thirsty, putting them at risk for constipation or urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Some food-related issues include not recognizing food, refusing to eat, or requesting unusual food combinations.
You can assist with the eating and drinking of a person with dementia by keeping these tips in mind:
- Make sure to schedule or set aside enough time for meals.
- Offer a selection of foods the person likes, ideally in smaller portions.
- Be ready for any changes in flavor preference.
- Provide finger foods if the person finds it hard to use utensils.
- Offer liquids in a transparent, easy-to-hold glass or mug.
Washing And Bathing
A person with dementia will struggle to maintain good hygiene and will need help bathing. Most are likely to worry about losing balance or getting undressed.
Since bathing is a private activity, you should be tactful and respectful. You can try to keep in mind these recommendations:
- Ask how they want to be aided during bathing.
- Provide a bath seat and install handrails and a handheld shower.
- Provide the preferred bath products.
- Accompany them if they don’t want to be left alone.
Washroom-Related Needs And Incontinence
An individual with dementia may often have issues with washroom needs. Generally, both urinary and bowel incontinence can be challenging and upsetting for the person. Issues can arise due to health conditions, such as constipation, UTIs, or side effects of certain medications. Often, an individual with dementia may forget the need to use the toilet or its location.
When assisting a person with washroom-related needs and incontinence, always keep in mind to maintain an open perspective and that it’s not the person’s fault, along with the following measures:
- Place a sign or clearly label the toilet door, ideally with images and words in easy-to-read print.
- The toilet door should stay open or readily accessible. You may also want to consider installing sensor lights.
- Check for any signs that the person needs to use the toilet, such as standing up or down and squirming.
- Encourage the person to stay active. Following a daily routine of walking will promote regular bowel movements.
- Encourage the person to use the toilet as part of their daily routine.
If you still face issues with incontinence, consult a doctor for further advice. In most cases, the doctor might suggest installing waterproof bedding or using incontinence pads.
Dementia can affect sleep patterns and cause problems with the body clock. A person with dementia will probably wake up several times during the night and become disoriented. Some might go to the extent of getting dressed for the day since they’re no longer aware it’s nighttime.
Although sleep disruption may be a phase of dementia that can subside over time, here are ways to assist the person:
- Position a clock by the bedside of the person that clearly shows the time of the day.
- Assist the person in getting adequate sun exposure and daily physical activity.
- Minimize the intake of alcohol and caffeine during the evening.
- Make sure the bedroom is a conducive space for sleep.
- Try to limit any daytime naps if possible.
Watching over an individual with dementia can be challenging due to the progressive cognitive decline that can significantly affect their daily function. Luckily, the aforementioned insights on basic care will serve as your guide in making the task a manageable one while ensuring the person stays healthy and safe at the same time.