Caring for a loved one who is suffering from memory loss can be frightening, time-consuming, and emotionally draining. Here at The Gables Assisted Living we focus on memory care. As a staff, we work as a team to help your loved one regain memory function so that they can live their best life. Though we will always do our best as a staff, it is important that you as a family member or friend assist in the overall care of your loved one’s memory. To provide the highest level of support in memory care, it is essential to understand what you are dealing with.
What is Dementia?
According to the National Institute on Aging, Dementia is described as “the loss of cognitive functioning-thinking, remembering, and reasoning- and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.” Dementia can be scary to deal with both as the one suffering from the disease and as a loved one. Dementia can cause a person to forget important things like who a friend or family member is, where they are, their age, and who they are, or things as small as where the car keys are, their address, and birthdays/other significant dates. It can result in intense personality changes as well.
Dealing with Dementia….
Communication can become strained, confusing, and difficult with someone suffering from Dementia. It is vital that as a loved one, you remain patient, calm, caring, and loving towards them in moments of aggression, confusion, and poor reasoning. Remember that they are anxious as well, this is hard on them too.
Anger and Frustration
Aggressive behavior is common with Dementia. Frustrations can quickly turn into physical and verbal violence. If your loved one becomes aggressive, it is important that you do not equally respond with aggression. Instead, try to identify the source of aggression. What triggered my loved one’s frustration? Are they in an uncomfortable situation? Is my loved one in pain?
Aggressive and or angry actions often come from a place of fear. Those suffering with dementia can hit, bite, or kick. These similar doings are shown in young children. These actions of physical violence are mechanisms of defense. When a child or adult suffering with memory loss feels helpless or afraid, they act out physically in order to try and protect themselves. Try to locate what could have caused anxiety and or fear for your loved one. Remove or explain the trigger so that they understand. The National Center on Caregiving reminds us that we can change our behavior and the physical environment, but we cannot change our loved one or their behavior, only accommodate it.
Your loved one suffering from Dementia may have a hard time remembering where they are, what time it is, who they are with, and more. While living in a memory care facility, your loved one may ask things like: “Where am I?” “When are we leaving?” “I want to go home.” Often, they are desiring to go home because they are desiring a time in their life when they felt they had control. Living in a new facility and losing one’s memory can be frightening. Requests to go home are not a sign your loved one dislikes their assisted living or memory care facility. However, it can be a sign they are feeling helpless or confused. Photos and tangible reminders in your loved one’s room can help make their space feel personal, comfortable, and home-like.
Occasionally, a distraction may be a better method in answering these questions. It is extremely difficult to reason with a person with Dementia. Often, redirection can help you to avoid anger, confusion, and poor communication between the two of you. Offer to take your loved one on a walk or out for an activity. Long explanations can become puzzling for your loved one. Keep your answers or redirections simple and easy to understand.
Loss of Judgement/Reasoning Skills
Accusations, delusions, and paranoia are common side-effects of Dementia. These issues stem from confusion. You may find that your loved one claims that you, other family members, another resident, or a staff member stole something from them. If it is clear these accusations are unfounded, do not argue with your loved one. Try to redirect. It is important to remember that these delusions are very real for the person you love. Feeling that someone is out to get them, stealing things from them, or watching them, is nothing short of realistic to them. AgingCare.com tells us that being reassuring and comforting towards our loved one’s concerns is the best method to dealing with these side-effects.
Your Responsibilities vs. Ours
Though Dementia can come with many more side-effects, these are the three you as a loved one should practice caring for. At The Gables Assisted Living and Memory Care, we will assist your loved one with any loss of physical functioning Dementia can bring. It is essential that you take initiative to spend time with your loved one and be calm, kind, and patient through these struggles. You are a person they trust, love, and care for. You can provide an emotional fulfillment for your loved one that staff may not be able to replace. We know memory loss can come with a long list of changes, but loving your family member/friend through these changes guarantees we can all work as a team to keep them living their best life possible.