Dementia is a common disease amongst the elderly, affecting over forty thousand people in Ireland alone. The signs and symptoms of dementia will differ from person to person, but it can be expected to affect speech, memory, behaviour and even a person’s personality. The disease causes the loss of neurons in the brain and is a progressive disease, meaning that its effects cannot be reversed and it can be expected to worsen with time.
When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be very difficult on their family and friends who witness the deterioration of the patient over time. Family often end up caring for the person suffering from dementia, which can be challenging, especially for those with no experience as carers. Here is some advice on how you can care for someone with dementia.
The Difficulties of Dressing
Once simple tasks such as dressing become more challenging as dementia progresses, so the patient will eventually need help dressing himself or herself. People have their own individual style and will prefer wearing certain clothes over others, so don’t rob someone of that – give them options. Be sure to respect their independence and allow them to dress themselves if possible; you can lay out the clothes for them and give them guidance if they need it. As dressing is a private act, blinds should be closed and there should be as few people as possible in the room. Often people who suffer from dementia won’t want to undress before going to bed or may insist on wearing the same clothing for days on end. You should gently push them to change into clean clothes every day by encouraging them with suggestions that they will want to look nice for someone who’s visiting that day, for example.
The Private Act of Washing
Washing is another private act that sufferers of dementia need help with. If you are helping your parent wash themselves, preserve their dignity by only uncovering the part of their body you’re washing. Shallow baths are preferable to deep ones and a handheld showerhead usually works better than a mounted showerhead as you have more control of the water that way. Bathing and washing should be a pleasant experience, so play music or use fragrant soap or bubble bath to make it an enjoyable experience for them. As with anything, if you are awkward, the situation will be awkward, so try to be light-hearted and jokey about any awkward moments if possible.
These are but two of the tasks that you may need to do on a regular basis when caring for someone with dementia. The life of a carer can be emotionally challenging, so if you feel you need support, don’t be afraid to talk to family or friends. You can also get guidance on how to care for your loved one online and from relevant organisations in your country and remember that there are many professional providers of home care who can help you out caring for your loved one, relieving you of some of the work.
This article was written by homecare professional Jade Quinn.