Caring for someone with dementia can be a difficult and challenging experience, and one which only becomes more difficult over time. You need to cope with the changes the person is going through and care for them accordingly, as well as ensure you’re looking after yourself.
To help you through this difficult process, we’ve created this brief guide that will help you care for your loved one as best as possible.
Helping them stay fit and healthy
It’s important for everyone to have a healthy mind and body; after all, the better we feel, the better we’re able to enjoy life. People living with dementia often experience negative feelings, so exercise and mental stimulation is a good way to keep those emotions at bay.
As a carer, you’ll also need a keep an eye on the person’s health, because it will become harder to identify something is wrong as the illness progresses. They may not be able to tell you how they’re feeling, so look out for warning signs, such as any cuts or bruises they have not told you about.
Eating well is important too, and presentation of the food can make a real difference. Try to make sure they’re eating a balanced diet that contains plenty of fibre, as this will reduce the risk of constipation – a banana on breakfast cereal is often a popular choice. It’s also vital that they drink enough water; you don’t want them to become dehydrated.
Helping them dress
For most of us, getting dressed is a very private part of our day, so try to bear this in mind when helping your relative or friend put their clothes on. If they want privacy, give them as much as you possibly can – they may be able to get dressed behind a curtain or screen, for example.
Don’t pick out their clothes for them either, unless they want you to. You should help them retain as much independence as possible, even if their clothing choices are unusual. If they need more assistance, then providing them with two clothing options can be a great way of offering choice without overwhelming them. Lay the clothes out on the bed for them in the order they should put them on. Again, if they have a particular routine they like to stick to, let them.
You’ll also want to ensure they change their clothes every day. Your loved one may forget to take their clothes off at night when they go to bed, so use their morning washing routine as an opportunity to get them into a fresh outfit.
Helping them wash
Much like dressing, washing is a very private activity that most of us like to do alone. For this reason, the person you’re caring for may feel anxious about the experience. Try to relax them by making task as fun as possible, so that it doesn’t feel like a chore. You can do this by putting on their favourite music or using some nice smelling bubble bath. Use the time to have a chat with them too.
Your loved one may be capable of washing themselves still, but feel nervous about being left alone in case they have an accident. If this is the case, let them have their privacy by having the shower curtain pulled across, and just stay in the room and pass them the shower gel, shampoo, etc. when they need them.
Afterwards, don’t forget to ensure they are completely dry; otherwise their skin may become sore or itchy.
Caring for someone you’re close to is never easy, and we understand that you may be feeling a mix of different emotions, including guilt, anger, frustration and shame. It is completely normal to feel this way – everyone in your situation will have experienced the same emotions at some point.