daughter as caretaker for her mother with dementia

The Dementia Journey: Caregiving at Home

Part Four: Your Support System, Caregiving at Home

As we have discussed in our previous blogs, an unexpected dementia diagnosis can create a real roadblock on life’s journey.  The unexpected and unplanned diagnosis of dementia can cause a daunting roadblock.  One of the most important ways to turn that roadblock into a detour is through education.  Learning what to expect and new strategies can help successfully navigate the way.  

Eventually, a person with a dementia diagnosis will need more help with activities of daily living (everyday tasks). This may include bathing, grooming, and dressing. There are a few things that can make this process easier.  

Try to keep a routine, doing things such as bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day.  Serve meals in a consistent, familiar place and give the person enough time to eat.  Allow the person that you are caring for to do as much for themselves as possible.  Small things such as using clothing with elastic waistbands and shoes with Velcro closures encourage independence in your loved one.  Tell the person that you are helping what to expect every step of the way (“I am going to help you with your shoes now” or “Here is the washcloth for you to wash your face”).  These kind, respectful narrations will help to foster trust and should make routines more predictable and less stressful. Allow a person to make as many choices and decisions for themselves as safely possible. Build quiet times into the day, along with activities.

Communication can become difficult with dementia.  Difficulty remembering things can cause your loved one to perseverate (repeat themselves endlessly) or have difficulty finding words or speaking.  As this happens more frequently, they also can become agitated and anxious, even angry. This may leave you feeling frustrated or impatient.  There are a few things that can help make communication easier in these instances.  Speak calmly and show that you are truly listening.  Try not to speak for your loved one, rather wait for them to find a word or indicate that they need help.  If the dementia patient doesn’t remember you or calls you by the wrong name, try not to correct them or say, “Don’t you remember me?’  Encourage a two-way conversation for as long as possible, even if the conversations don’t make complete sense, the feeling of connection is very real and reassuring to a dementia patient.  If you have trouble communicating with words, hold their hand or look at a familiar book or photo album.   When the time comes that your loved one does not remember your name or who exactly you are in their life, they do know how you make them feel.  Your love is clear, even if your name is not.  

Remember to make time to care for yourself.  Follow the advice of the airline attendant and “put your own oxygen on first.”  A caregiver that is completely depleted cannot give anything to anyone. At Van Dyck Law Group our expert Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys along with our compassionate and experienced Life Care Resources Team are here to help guide you and support you on this unexpected detour.  We offer ongoing education for families dealing with a dementia diagnosis at our Van Dyck Education Center in Princeton.  Please check our current classes at https://vandyckfirm.com/education-center/.    

Part Four: Your Support System, Caregiving at Home 

Linda Mundie, Director of Life Care Resources

Van Dyck Law Firm, 707 State Road, Princeton, NJ 08540

August 2022