Essential Facts to Know About Having a Loved One Living with Dementia
When you first hear that someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the initial shock may give way to two contrasting feelings. Most people in this situation immediately want to comfort their loved one, but also are anxious and afraid about what the future holds. They may fear that they will soon totally lose the person they love to memory loss, or that they won’t be able to care for that person. At times, these feelings can become overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help a loved one with dementia stay safe, healthy, and fulfilled for as long as possible, and this is made much easier with professional assistance. At Town Square at the Jersey Shore, we are committed to our members and their families. Our highly-trained staff leads socially and mentally engaging senior day services in our immersive location, focusing on personal connections, therapeutic reminiscence, learning, fun, and overall health.
Our memory care expertise gives us a unique perspective and insight into the experiences of people who have dementia. Although dementia causes a progressive loss of memory and cognitive ability, our programming plays to our member’s strengths, enabling them to engage with others based on their current level of functioning and retain as much ability for as long as possible.
And we provide more than just the best in senior day care services – we’re there for our members and the people who care for them on every step of their journey with dementia, offering support groups, recommendations for additional medical care from our preferred partners, and much more. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a tour of our Brick, NJ location, or read on to find out more answers to common questions about helping someone who’s living with dementia.
What is It Like to Have a Family Member with Dementia?
Most primary care partners of those living with dementia are either that person’s child or their spouse or other life partner. Close familial relationships like these can occasionally be emotionally fraught at the best of times, and a diagnosis of dementia tends to make the feelings involved both more intense and more complex.
As a caregiver for your loved one – someone who may have cared for you when you were growing up, or who was your equal partner for a long time – it’s natural to feel emotionally raw at times. You may feel depressed or angry at the world that your loved one has to live with a terminal brain condition – dementia usually has no single apparent cause, so the fact that it is happening for “no reason” tends to make these feelings worse.
You may resent the fact that you need to provide the care that you do, and you may feel guilty about having these feelings in the first place, because you are not the one undergoing the disease. Often, our minds rationalize feelings of guilt like these as being not “allowed” to feel certain emotions, even though we can’t control how we feel – only what we do about our feelings.
What Are the Most Common Behaviors Associated with Dementia?
The symptoms of dementia differ from type to type, stage to stage, and person to person, but common “outer” and behavioral manifestations include restlessness, insomnia and other sleep disturbances, apathy towards some or many activities, anxiety, uncertainty, and conversational problems (due to not being able to remember the right word or follow the narrative thread). These behaviors are all direct results of the brain changes caused by dementia.
While people who have dementia may have mood swings, sudden flashes of anger, outbursts, or other unusual negative emotions, this is usually a reaction to an outside stimulus or even a non-workable approach by a well-intentioned care partner. In this case, it is up to you to calm the situation down and choose a different conversational tactic. Town Square’s Family Center helps care partners deal with issues like these through education, by raising understanding and offering new ideas and useful strategies for helping a loved one manage their dementia.
Is It Hard to Live with Someone Who Has Dementia?
Living with, and caring for, a person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia has inherent challenges. However, this diagnosis doesn’t mean that the person you love is somehow gone. On the contrary, individuals with dementia can still learn, enjoy new experiences, and express themselves – while there are new issues to navigate, you can still enjoy your loved one’s company and cherish them for the person they are.
The types of things that become harder for your loved one who has dementia depend upon the type of dementia they have been diagnosed with and their stage of progression. Unfortunately, all types of dementia are progressive, non-reversible, and not curable, but every person’s progression through the condition will look different.
Town Square members who have attended from the early stages of their dementia diagnosis and their families have reported many benefits, including being better able to cope with this condition at home. If your loved one has dementia, you and they will both have an easier time and find more enjoyment out of your time together if you can adapt and be flexible – something those who are living with dementia cannot do.
What Should You Not Do When Someone Has Dementia?
One of the cardinal features of dementia, at any stage, is that people who have this condition are not always going to be rational and usually will not be able to intentionally change their thinking or behavior. A confrontation, even one where you remain calm and logical, is not going to go anywhere helpful.
First and foremost, you should “give up the right to be right” – even if you are factually right, no matter how frustrated you are, arguing will do nothing other than raise tension. Agreeing and moving on is a more productive approach. You should also slow down your communication and wait as long as needed for a response – this may include using fewer words and simplifying instructions.
Never surprise a loved one with dementia, and approach them from the front when initiating a conversation, because dementia can potentially impair peripheral vision.
Any type of other stimulus during a conversation with someone with dementia may prove distracting or upsetting to that person, so eliminate ambient noise rather than try to talk with something going on in the background. Instead of asking for a complex and firm decision, give a clear, minimal number of choices and use phrases like “let’s try this”, as less-permanent decisions imply less stress and pressure.
Above all, be supportive rather than confrontational, focus on the level of ability that your loved one still has, and if you’re getting nowhere, stop, back up, and try something different.
How to Cope With a Family Member’s Dementia Diagnosis
You and your loved one are both unique individuals, so there is no one-size-fits-all advice that is appropriate for all people with dementia and all of their care partners. Nevertheless, at Town Square, we strive to support our members whether they are attending our center or at home, and we believe in member and caregiver education.
Our staff is ready to listen to your needs and concerns, and we’ll help connect you with the right clinical services for you and your loved one, in addition to presenting educational and support programming on the practical and emotional skills you need as a dementia caregiver.
Contact us today to find out more on how Town Square at the Jersey Shore can offer the support you and your family need, have any of your questions answered, or schedule a tour with us. You can also view our FAQs for quick answers to the most common general questions we get.