When somebody is diagnosed with dementia, it often impacts on their loved one too – especially if you are going to be caring for them.
There are different types of dementia, including vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but symptoms typically involve varying degrees of memory loss, declining cognitive function, confusion and mood changes, and people with dementia may gradually lose their independence or ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
Although there is no cure for dementia, getting an accurate diagnosis as early as possible, along with the right support and treatments, can make a big difference.
At Dementech Neurosciences, the dementia specialists at our Neurology Clinic can provide a number of diagnostic tests and assessments, as well as tailored treatment plans and advice to suit your individual needs. It’s very important that carers are provided with information and support too and this is something we are happy to help with.
Here’s a look at some points to keep in mind when it comes to caring for someone with dementia at home:
1] Don’t forget to look after yourself too
It’s easy for carers to put their own needs last, but it’s very important to prioritise your own wellbeing too and make time for regular respite. Whether it’s exercise, doing something fun, socialising or all of the above, these are vital tools for keeping yourself resilient and energised. As the saying goes – you can’t pour from an empty cup – so taking breaks really isn’t selfish, it’s healthy for everyone.
2] Tell family and friends what’s happening
If you’re caring for someone with dementia, it’s not uncommon to feel isolated and alone, and possibly even frustrated if you feel nobody really understands what you’re dealing with. Telling those close to you what’s going on can be very helpful; often they won’t know if you’re finding things hard unless you tell them. If you are still working, it might be a good idea to tell your employer too, so they’re aware of any additional pressures and support you may need.
3] Ask for help
Caring for someone with dementia at home can be challenging. Don’t feel you have to shoulder everything alone though, as there may be a number of options or means of additional support available. This might include external carer support, hiring a cleaner to help take the weight off at home, or looking into community resources that could provide outside support and respite. Charities such as Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK and Age UK can be useful sources of information.
If you are looking after somebody with progressive dementia, their needs may change as time goes on. They may also need help with personal care and be less able to manage around the house. An occupational therapist can help assess their needs at home and suggest helpful solutions.
4] Embrace carer support
Support for dementia carers is available too, and is something we also provide through our Neurology Clinic. Carer support might mean talking things through with a trained professional, or joining a local support group where you can let off steam or talk about your experiences with others in similar positions. Knowing you’re not alone can be extremely reassuring, and you might find useful information and ideas.
5] Focus on positives
Caring for someone with dementia can sometimes feel all-consuming and, in some cases, a thankless task. Focusing on the positives can really help. After all, you are doing a wonderful thing for somebody you care about. Is it still possible to enjoy quality time doing nice things with the person you’re caring for? Perhaps days out, visiting favourite cafes or galleries – keeping up those positive connections can be therapeutic for both the person with dementia and their carer. If you do find getting out and about an increasing struggle, perhaps ask a good friend or another relative to join you too.
6] Go easy on yourself
Everybody will have tough days, and feeling angry, sad and resentful on occasions is completely normal. Don’t beat yourself up – you are not a robot and you are allowed to express these feelings. In fact, doing so can be very healthy and help you find ways to move forwards. You are doing a great job and making a big positive difference to somebody’s life.