2017-04-20 / Healthy Living

Smart strategies for dealing with dementia

Dementia comes in many forms and has many causes. There is Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and dementia caused by Parkinson’s or Huntington’s diseases. But did you know that “dementia-like” symptoms can be caused by adverse drug reactions, urinary tract infections and thyroid disorders? A deficiency in certain vitamins like B12, or poor nutrition and dehydration can also contribute to loss of brain function. If there are noticeable cognitive changes in an older loved one, don’t dismiss it as dementia or a natural part of aging. There may be another diagnosis. Consult with a physician immediately. Sometimes after proper diagnosis and treatment, the symptoms can be reversed.

When dementia strikes, the person struggles as they suddenly find their world unfamiliar, confusing and often hostile. Families struggle because strategies are needed to cope with certain behaviors like wandering and agitation. Remember that in one of my earlier articles on Validation Therapy, I stressed that it is futile to try and bring the person with dementia into your framework of reality, it is more comforting and less confrontational to enter theirs.

Here are some simple, smart strategies that can help your loved one when dealing with dementia. Start with these top five tips:

Use what you already know about the person: The individual is not the disease; remember their life history, likes and dislikes — use their stories to better relate to them. Smile and speak simply: Body language and tone of voice must be nonthreatening; keep conversations short and to the point to avoid confusion.

Engage and encourage: Provide care in a relaxed manner; slow down and enable your loved one to do things for themselves; provide simple, enjoyable activities for stimulation.

Don’t argue — distract instead: Acknowledge and respect what the person is saying and doing; ask questions about their memories, or talk about their life and what they like while guiding them to the desired activity.

Step back from aggression: Agitation is often the result of an unmet need or reaction to an emotion; try to identify the trigger for the behavior and provide the solution rather than becoming angry or antagonistic.

Education of the family and caregivers is critical to successfully caring for someone who has dementia. Making the most of your loved one’s remaining abilities can prolong their independence. Stay positive about each accomplishment! Don’t let it bother you if everything takes more time or isn’t done to perfection. If you are considering home care, keep in mind that professional caregivers are specially trained to make the tasks of daily living as easy as possible for the person with dementia, and create a safe and comfortable environment while providing appropriate activities to prevent withdrawal.

Visiting Angels of the Palm Beaches has a refreshing approach to homecare relationships. Let our “Angels” help you or a loved one recover from illness, accident or surgery, or assist with the care and companionship needed to remain comfortably and safely at home while aging in place or dealing with disease or the daily demands of living with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Call (561) 328-7611 or visit www.VisitingAngels.com/PalmBeaches. ¦

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