Tips for Caring for Family Members with Dementia

Guest post by Melissa Andrews

elderly woman

Learning your family member has dementia can leave you feeling scared and uncertain for their future. This is a new obstacle that both you and your family member have to face, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek assisted home care.

The good news is, you are not alone in this. Many others have been and are going through the same situation as you are. And through their experience, they are able to provide feedback to help you through your family member’s new phase in life.

How to Communicate

Family Care Alliance (FCA)  gives tips on how to communicate with someone who has dementia

Make sure you speak clearly.

Your family member may have a hard time understanding difficult words or fast sentences. Slow down when speaking and use simple, easy to understand words. Repeat the sentence again if they did not understand it at first. Be patient with them.

Ask simple questions.

Answers that require ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers are better than   open-ended questions.

Help when needed.

If you notice your family member having trouble forming an answer, suggest words to see if you can help get the response they are looking for.

Don’t get frustrated.

People suffering from dementia may become agitated while trying to communicate. Don’t take it personally. Simply distract them or redirect them to another subject or change of scenery.

Be compassionate.

It is important to support your family member through this confusing time in their life. They may feel anxious or uncertain of themselves. Reassure them that you are there for them by stating it verbally, as well as showing it physically by giving a hug or holding their hands.

How to Handle Concerning Behavior

Your family member may experience changes in their personality and behavior that may be of concern to you. According to FCA, there a few guidelines to follow when addressing the behavior:

First, take your family member to see a doctor to see if there may be a medical cause as to why they are acting the way they are.

Your family member may be trying to communicate that they want or need something. They may be trying to meet a need or want by performing disruptive behavior. Try your best to match the behavior to something your family member is trying to convey to you.

How to Manage Wandering

A common association of dementia is wandering. You may notice your family member pacing around aimlessly. FCA notes they could be doing this to fulfill a need such as thirst or hunger. The triggers for wandering may be hard to pinpoint, but there are precautions you can take to keep your family member safe if they are wandering without supervision.

Install locks that require a key for opening.

Place a ‘stop’ sign onto doors or use a sheet over the door to create a roadblock.

If you are really concerned about your family member’s safety, you may want to invest in a home security or monitoring system to keep an eye on them.

Have your family member wear an ID bracelet or have one sewn onto their clothing so they can easily be identified and escorted back to safety in the event they do wander off.

How to Help with Sleeplessness/Sundown Syndrome

Dementia can bring on an onset of restlessness resulting in the inability to fall asleep or agitation/confusion at night time– hence the phrase “sundown syndrome.” Here are ways you can help decrease the symptoms associated with “sundowning.”

Refrain from letting your family member nap during the day. Encourage them to be active and participate in physical exercise.

Set a daily routine for your family member to help reduce confusion. Ensure they wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, allowing their body to set an internal clock of when to wake up/go to sleep.

Make sure your family member is incorporating a healthy diet into their daily meal plans. Avoid large meals, alcohol, and caffeine as these can increase agitation and keep them up at night, according to Healthline.

Dementia does not just affect the person diagnosed. It affects family members as well. It may be hard adjusting to new ways of communicating or taking care of your family member, but there are precautions you can take to help keep your family member safe as they adapt to their new way of living.

Author Bio

Melissa Andrews is the Content Marketing Strategist for Paradise Living Centers, an assisted living center for seniors with locations in Paradise Valley and Phoenix, Arizona. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and going on hiking trips with her siblings and cousins.

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