Wednesday, February 8, 2017

3 Life Changing Strategies Every Dementia Caregiver Should Know

How to Avoid a Nervous Breakdown:
A Simple Guide for Caregivers

Day to day life as a dementia caregiver is challenging. Some days, providing care for a friend or family member with dementia may be downright overwhelming. Caregivers often report feeling like they're about to go "over the edge." 

Frustration is a normal and valid response to many of the difficulties dementia caregivers face. But how do you keep yourself from going bonkers?  

Here are three strategies any caregiver can incorporate TODAY that can be sanity savers and game changers:  

Give them a purpose

People without a purpose are miserable and can make you feel that way too.  Often times, when a person believes they have nothing left to contribute, feelings of depression and worthlessness set in. Additionally, when people with dementia begin to think  they are a burden on family members, feelings of anxiety and guilt can be overwhelming.  

Despite cognitive difficulties or memory lapses, persons with dementia can still contribute by completing simple household chores:
  • dusting furniture
  • sweeping
  • folding laundry
  • stirring cake batter
  • setting the table
  • tearing lettuce for a salad
  • cutting coupons
  • washing dishes

By assisting with daily chores, people with dem
entia gain a sense of purpose and meaning. Not only with they be able to contribute in a way that is helpful, they will likely demonstrate less boredom, pacing, sleeping and perhaps, even fewer difficult behaviors. Once again, see themselves as being reliable and dependable...and that's a great feeling! 

So, don't be afraid to delegate.  Consider their physical abilities, interests and habits and then ask them to complete a task. Let them know you are counting on them to do the job, but keep in mind that perfection upon completion is not the expectation. 

You can accomplish more when you work together, but just as important, caregivers can avoid burnout and nervous breakdown.

Keep them well fed and adequately hydrated

We all know that good nutrition is important for proper body function. Of course, the same can be said for fluids- they are critical for good health and well being.  In order to make sure people with dementia are properly nourished, seek to give high protein, high calorie foods.  If they seem to be falling short, show a diminished appetite or begin to lose weight, nutritional supplementation (like Ensure, Boost or Glucerna) may be necessary.

Adequate hydration can be difficult for people of all ages.  Be sure to offer a variety of liquids, and have them readily available. If the person with dementia is needing extra calories, offer liquids like juice, milk, soda or sweet tea. If diabetes is a concern, switch things up a bit by offering sugar free drinks (like Crystal Lite) or tea with artificial sweetener. For a special treat, give reduced sugar juices or diet sodas. 

By making sure nutrition and hydration are adequate, you can prevent a variety of health concerns:  

  • constipation
  • dehydration
  • UTI
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • delirium
  • hospitalization
  • death

People with dementia may not ask for food, it might slip their minds to eat and they may forget it's been hours since they've had something to drink.  Be sure that foods, snacks and liquids are offered at regular intervals throughout the day. Remember, don't ask, "Do you want something to drink?", rather, say, "Here, I poured you a glass of water. Take a few sips."

Join their reality

People with dementia often have difficulty with orientation. This may result in disorientation to person, place, time and reality. As much as possible, and within reason, go with their reality flow. By doing this, caregivers are able to eliminate arguments and 
prevent unnecessary upset. 

Instead of trying to convince the person with dementia that they're wrong, try the divert and distract technique.  It's as simple as it sounds:  divert their attention to something else or distract them with a change of activity or a change of location.  This can strategy can allow caregivers to keep a person with dementia emotionally in check and behaviorally under control.

If orientation to present circumstances is difficult, sometimes going back in time can help with reorientation.  Reminiscing is more than just living in the past, it enables patients with dementia to communicate and interact with listeners in the present.  It provides the person with dementia a sense of confidence and self esteem while giving a sense of fulfillment and comfort as they look back on their lives. 

There's no reason to live on the edge!  By following these three simple strategies, dementia caregivers can reduce stress, diminish fatigue and prevent a nervous breakdown.

If you have questions or need help managing dementia for someone you love,
Spontaneous Speech is available. Working with you, we can help you create weekly routines and establish daily schedules that give a sense of purpose.  We can address feeding and swallowing challenges, and we can establish strategies that maximize communication. What's more, we can help you learn other ways to cope with the stress of caring for a person with dementia.  

Call today to for a free consultation:  361-271-1700.  In the meantime, please like and share this post with anyone you know that is a dementia caregiver.  

We change the world when we simply meet the needs of another.
Kristen Welch