What Should One Keep in Mind when Caring for a Relative With Dementia?

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Answered by: Norvil, An Expert in the For the Caregiver Category
Caring for a relative with dementia can feel like a full-time job in and of itself. Sleepless nights, mood swings, irrational behavior--- all of these are things you can unfortunately expect. Coping with these things, especially from a loved one, can be difficult. This article will attempt to provide you with some tips, and hopefully make life easier for both you and the person in your care.

First and foremost, remember that dementia warps the perspective of its victim. Your loved one may not realize you're trying to help them. They may not even realize who you are or even that they need help. They may become frightened, hostile, or even violent. While it's perfectly natural to be upset by these behaviors, you must remain calm when dealing with the situation. Becoming angry or frustrated will only feed into the emotions of your relative. Always remember to keep a cool head and to remain the rational person in the situation. If you need a few moments to release negative emotion, it's best to do so at a time and place unseen by your loved one.

Unless there is an issue of safety, there is no need to escalate an aggressive situation by insisting on performing any task. While some things, such as incontinence care, should be dealt with as soon as possible, some care can wait. A loved one suffering dementia is unlikely to eat a meal if they're feeling hostile toward you. Likewise bathing or dressing. Attempting to push the issue will be detrimental to the care of your loved one. Take a step back. Give your loved one time to relax. Re-approach them when they've calmed down and you may find them more receptive to care.

Remember that you're not going to be able to change their perspective of reality. Think about it. If someone told you that grass was purple, would you believe them? Probably not. If that someone repeated that opinion to you, even shouting at you, would you be more inclined to believe them? No, you'd want to know why they're lying to you. Because dementia warps the perspective of your loved one, you won't likely be able to convince them to see your perspective. Instead, meet them at their point of view. Bring yourself to their reality as best you can. This tactic can be effective in preventing hostility and distrust from your loved one.

Keep in mind that everyone needs a break sometimes. Even professional caregivers can be affected by burn-out. This can be even more of a problem when caring for someone related to you. A lack of formal training, emotional attachment to the person receiving care, and amount of time spent providing care, can all lead very quickly to frustration and resentment. Don't hesitate to seek help. You may have other relatives that can help with providing care for your loved one. In-home care can be hired as well, through both employment agencies as well as via classified ads. Most nursing facilities also provide what is called "respite care," in which your relative will stay with them for an amount of time that you specify. Any of these options, or any combination of them, can be helpful in relieving some of the pressure you may feel in being your loved one's primary caregiver.

With these tips in mind, you can maximize the level of safe, effective, and comfortable care your relative with dementia receives with the least amount of stress possible.

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