Dementia Care EMBHCLooking after a loved one who has a form of dementia is one of the most challenging forms of care. With most types of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's disease, the person you know and love seems to be slipping away, and sadly, that's exactly what's happening.

The best way to care for someone suffering from dementia is to educate yourself. Discover what exactly is changing in your loved one's mind, identify triggers for unwanted behaviors, and learn how to manage those behaviors as best you can.z

What's going on inside his head?

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Most people with dementia experience gradual memory loss, as well as a decline in cognitive function that impacts communication skills and self-care. These changes can be scary and frustrating, which can lead to negative and sometimes aggressive behavior.

Imagine how you would feel to know that you used to remember your neighbor's name and how to turn on a microwave. Now imagine searching for those details in your brain only to come up empty handed. That's how a person with dementia feels every day.

Common dementia behaviors
Though dementia affects each person differently, there are some common behaviors, including:

  • Aggressive words and behavior
  • Wandering away, trying to "go home"
  • Disorientation, not knowing what is happening to them or why
  • Rummaging and hiding things
  • Hallucinations and suspicions about the people around them
  • Insomnia and sleeping problems
  • Eating problems, such as loss of appetite, difficulty chewing and swallowing, forgetting to eat

How avoid triggering these behaviors
The most important thing to know is that you cannot control these behaviors by force. What you can do is try to minimize the triggers of these behaviors to prevent them from happening. Use these tips to help make life a bit smoother with your loved one.

Identify the triggers.

  • Unfamiliar surroundings
  • Problems accomplishing tasks
  • Communication difficulties
  • Loud noises
  • Busy environments
  • Physical discomfort

Create a soothing environment.

  • Minimize distractions, loud noises, clashing colors in the décor, shadowy lighting and reflective surfaces like mirrors
  • Learn his music tastes and play that music when you need to do something that triggers a negative behavior

Modify the way you communicate.

  • Start conversations with positive verbal and body language.
  • Speak in a soothing and respectful tone and use various cues to capture attention.
  • Touch her arm or hold her hand to help maintain focus.
  • Be very clear with your message and ask simple questions.
  • Look for non-verbal cues like body language, head nodding, and eye movements that tell the real story. Your loved one may be saying one thing and meaning something completely different.
  • Respond with affection and reassure him using your words and body language.

How to minimize behavioral issues
When your loved one is exhibiting aggressive, belligerent behavior or is overcome with terror and insecurity, it's important to remember that you cannot reason with him or change his mind. These tips will help you calm your loved one and mitigate further behavioral issues.

  • Check with the doctor. Certain behaviors may be caused by medication or symptoms of other underlying conditions. Talk with his doctor about the behaviors and any changes you've noticed.
  • Redirect. If your loved one is agitated, acknowledge his feelings and try to get him to focus on something else. Change the subject, ask a question, or move to a new environment. Focus on the distant past. Your loved one may not remember lunch 10 minutes ago, but can describe with perfect clarity his wedding day in 1946 or the lunar landing in 1969.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise, as permitted by a physician, is an excellent way to improve her mood and calm her physically. Go for a walk, do simple chair exercises, or any other activity she finds enjoyable.
  • Assign tasks. You loved one may respond positively if he feels needed and included. You could ask him to pick a new color for the living room, wash vegetables for dinner or move a stack of magazines to a new location nearby.
  • Accommodate. You cannot control you loved one's behavior, so if all else fails, you simply have to accommodate it and see what happens tomorrow.

Know you are not alone
If you're caring for someone with dementia, there are a variety of resources available to help. Your local agency on aging or hospital will have support groups for you and programs for your loved one. At Embassy Healthcare, we offer full-time dementia care, as well as adult daycare and respite care that allow you to take a break when you need it.

If you have any questions, never hesitate to call your loved one's physician. And if you feel you cannot provide the necessary care for your loved one, give us a call at 888-975-1379 to discuss your options for full-time care and schedule a visit to one of our communities.