7 Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care Tips for Family Caregivers

dementia care

7 Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care Tips for Family Caregivers

“We generate fears while we sit. We overcome them by action. Fear is nature’s way of warning us to get busy.” – Dr. Henry Link

Dementia is a condition where there is deterioration of brain function, memory loss and changes in behaviour. While dementia is associated with older age, it can also appear in younger people. And unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s.  

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that around 8.5% of older adults or roughly 260,000 people in Malaysia are living with dementia. Since dementia is a progressive disease, over time a person may need support in their daily activities.

However, several factors may reduce the risk of developing dementia, including being physically and socially active, keeping a healthy diet, and avoiding the use of tobacco and excessive alcohol.

What is the Difference between Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease?

dementia vs alzheimer's

We often use Alzheimer’s and dementia interchangeably. Though they are related, these two are distinct terms:

  • Dementia is a general term used to describe a set of symptoms that affect cognitive abilities, memory, thinking, and behaviour. It is not a specific disease but rather an umbrella term for a group of symptoms.

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause or type of dementia, accounting for the majority of cases. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects memory and cognitive functions.

In short, dementia is an overarching term that refers to a range of symptoms affecting cognitive abilities, while Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia characterised by progressive memory loss and cognitive decline. There are other types of dementia, each with its own distinct causes and characteristics.

Dementia Care Tips for Your Loved Ones

Caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be an emotionally demanding and physically exhausting journey. The challenges of dementia care can test even the most resilient caregivers, but with the right strategies and support, families can navigate this difficult terrain more effectively. 

Let’s explore some practical tips and insights to help family caregivers overcome the challenges of dementia care and provide compassionate support for their loved ones.

1. Educate Yourself About Dementia & Alzheimer’s

Understanding the nature of dementia and its progression is essential for effective caregiving. Take the time to educate yourself about the specific type of dementia such as Alzheimer’s that your loved one has, common symptoms, behaviours, and available treatment options. Knowledge empowers caregivers to anticipate challenges, respond effectively, and provide appropriate care.

2. Focus on Communication

Communication can be challenging for individuals with dementia due to cognitive decline and language difficulties. Use simple, clear language and speak slowly and calmly. Try to maintain eye contact and provide reassurance and validation, even if your loved one’s reality differs from yours. Be patient and attentive, and listen actively to their verbal and nonverbal cues

dementia care

3. Establish Routines & Structure 

Consistency and predictability can help reduce anxiety and confusion for individuals with dementia. You can establish daily routines for meals, medications, activities, and rest, and stick to them as much as possible. Create a familiar and structured environment that promotes a sense of security and stability for your loved one.

4. Practice Patience & Empathy

Dementia and Alzheiemer’s can cause changes in behaviour, mood swings, and agitation, which can be challenging for caregivers to manage. Thus, it’s essential to practise patience, empathy, and understanding, and try to see the world from your loved one’s perspective. Validate their feelings and emotions, even if they seem irrational or difficult to understand.

5. Seek Support & Respite

Caregiving can be isolating and overwhelming. Caregiver’s burnout is a real condition, and it can be detrimental to both caregiver and patient. So, it’s crucial to seek support from family, friends, support groups, or professional caregivers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed, and take advantage of respite care services like Komune Care to give yourself a break and recharge. 

Remember that self-care is not selfish but necessary for your well-being as a caregiver.

6. Focus on Safety & Comfort

Safety is paramount when caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Take steps to ensure a safe living environment by removing hazards, installing safety devices, and supervising potentially risky activities. Prioritise your loved one’s comfort and well-being, and address their physical and emotional needs with compassion and attentiveness.

7. Be Kind to Yourself as a Caregiver

dementia care

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a demanding and often thankless role, so it’s important to practise self-compassion and acceptance. Start by recognising your limitations as a caregiver and acknowledge that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or exhausted at times. Be kind to yourself and celebrate the small victories along the caregiving journey.

“No matter how much the mind fades, the heart forever remembers”  – Anonymous

Love & Care for Dementia Patients

Navigating the challenges of Alzheimer’s and dementia care requires patience, empathy, and resilience on the part of family caregivers. By educating yourself about your loved one’s conditions, focusing on communication, establishing routines, practising patience and empathy, seeking support and respite, and other helpful tips, caregivers can provide compassionate and effective care for their loved ones with dementia. 

Remember that you’re not alone on this journey, and help and support are available to guide you through the challenges of dementia caregiving.

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