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Caring For Persons with Dementia

Tips to help caregivers of persons with dementia

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Institute of Mental Health

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Caring for a person with memory loss and confusion can be stressful and exhausting.  The following tips are specially designed to help caregivers of persons with dementia.

 

General principles in Dementia Care

People with memory loss and confusion can exhibit difficult behaviour because of the changes within the brain. The suggestions listed below are some tips to help the caregiver cope and to ensure the patient’s safety, dignity and independence is maintained as far as possible.

 

  • Do not expect the person to remember, as this will frustrate him. 
  • When the elder becomes agitated or displays a difficult behaviour, try to distract him with another activity. 
  • Simplify activities and communication. Break activities down into simple, step-by- step tasks. This will help the person with dementia focus on one step at a time to complete the activity. Even if it takes longer and the person makes a mess, it is better to allow him to do as much for himself as possible. This will give him dignity, independence and maintain his abilities for as long as possible.
  • Create routines and a consistent plan for each day, including what time to get up and to take meals. Taking part in activities helps decrease anxiety and promotes a sense of comfort for the person with dementia.
  • Do not argue with the person with dementia. His reality is not yours.
  • Identify and remove triggers to behaviour (i.e. if the person wants to go outside every time he sees shoes at the door, remove the shoes).
  • When the person demonstrates a new or difficult behaviour, try to find out if he is uncomfortable (e.g. too hot or tired, or needs to go to the toilet). If he seems uncomfortable, the behaviour may be related to a medical problem, such as an infection, medication side effects, etc). Have him evaluated by a doctor if you cannot find the cause of his new behaviour, such as restlessness, agitation, irritability and/or physical aggression.
  • Daily exercise. Make sure the person has an opportunity to have exercise everyday. Physical exercise helps to strengthen muscle tone and improves balance and coordination, thus decreasing the risk of falling. For example, physical exercise, such as walking outdoors for 20 minutes daily, Qigong, Tai Qi, ball games, etc. will be helpful if the person is still able to follow simple instructions.
  • Maintain social activities. Social activities help the person with dementia stay in touch with other people (such as family, friends and neighbours), giving them a sense of well-being.
  • Offer reassurance and praise. This will boost the person’s self-esteem and reinforce appropriate behaviour.

 

Click here to read the rest of the article to find out more about caring for persons with dementia.

 

Caring for Persons with Dementia © Institute of Mental Health.  Reproduced with permission.

 

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