Caring for someone with Dementia
It's heartbreaking to watch when a close friend or family member is diagnosed with dementia, and it can be very hard for relatives to come to terms with.
In the early stages of dementia, while a patient is still aware of their diagnosis and their poor memory, they may feel very vulnerable and require a lot of reassurance. In this instance, the best thing that you can do to help is to allow them to express their worries and talk through them.
It's very important for all people with dementia to feel that their individual identity is not being consumed by their illness, and to feel that they still have a sense of self-worth.
Carers can help to preserve a patient's identity by allowing them to make their own choices when those choices won't cause harm to themselves or others. This includes allowing them to dress and wash themselves as long as it's safe for them to do so, avoiding making them feel helpless or infantile.
Often people with dementia will find that their taste in foods changes enormously; as someone providing care for them it's important that you take their tastes into account and serve them food that they enjoy eating and which keeps them relatively fit and healthy.
As dementia progresses, a person's behaviour could become erratic, unusual and sometimes this behaviour can be embarrassing or frustrating for those caring for them. Out of character behaviour can be caused by feeling distressed or upset in someone suffering from dementia, so it is sometimes possible to reduce its frequency by ensuring the patient is calm, keeping familiar personal items around them and ensuring that their sleeping environment is comfortable.
Try and remember when difficult behaviours occur that your loved one is not deliberately being difficult, and try not to take it personally - their sense of reality may be very different to yours, and they are just doing what seems right and normal to them.
Look after yourself
Caring for someone with dementia can often become overwhelming, but there will be resources in place in your local area to help you cope, whether provided by the local authority or an independent charity.
Contact your local Alzheimer's Society branch to find out about what care is available in your area, how to pay for it and what happens when someone with dementia leaves hospital. You can also consult Alzheimer's Society for information on the legal and financial ramifications of a dementia diagnosis, as it may become necessary for a friend or relative to be granted power of attorney for the unwell individual.
Above all, remember that your parent, grandparent or friend is still the same person they always were, just with a debilitating illness. Don't change the way that you treat them, and show them the unconditional love and support that they need to thrive.