The role of a dementia caregiver can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. It requires patience, empathy, and a deep understanding of the person’s needs.
Although it can be difficult, with knowledge, support, and preparation, you can help a loved one during a challenging time and find joy in the process. How to provide the right help?
The first step to doing it right is understanding what is expected of you.
Dementia caregivers provide support and care in various ways, from helping with day-to-day tasks to providing emotional, social, and financial support
Below are some of the responsibilities of a dementia caregiver with detailed information on how to give your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia the best care possible.
Dementia is an isolating mental condition. If you fail to give your loved one the proper attention and companionship, the condition can quickly become overwhelming.
A study conducted during COVID-19 found that the social isolation experienced by people with dementia during that period triggered a series of negative behavioral repercussions.
Providing companionship helps establish a safe and comfortable environment and is one of the essential duties of a dementia caregiver. You can do this by providing emotional support, engaging in meaningful conversations, and participating in activities that the person enjoys.
Helping with Activities of Daily Living
The simple daily activities we all do without batting an eye or conjuring second thoughts prove difficult for people with dementia.
Providing assistance with daily tasks as the disease progresses, such as eating, dressing, and taking a bath, is often a crucial responsibility of a dementia caregiver.
However, while extending a helping hand, you must respect a person’s individuality.
A s caregiver, you need to understand and remind yourself that accepting help for such tasks can be difficult for someone who has be independent most of his/her life. The person may even outright refuse your assistance. As needed, you may have to be firm, but respectful in your approach.
Managing Finances and Debts
When it comes to managing the finances and debt issues of a person with dementia, the best course of action is to start early.
Look for the signs of financial struggle and intervene quickly. For example, if your loved one’s condition prevents them from paying timely on debt or utility bills you may need to step in and assist.
Gradually, you can increase your involvement, taking charge of the person’s financial affairs through legal arrangements.
If the person’s dementia renders them absolutely incapable of handling personal finances, and he/she is past the point of grasping the situation and granting you power of attorney, you can get a conservatorship from the court. It’s best to hire an attorney to guide you through these issues.
Proceed with caution before rushing in to take over. Have a conversation with your loved one and come to a decision together, if possible.
It’s important to manage the debt and other financial obligations of your loved one, but you must do so with respect and understanding.
Creating a Structured Environment
For many of us, daily routine helps us maintain control and clarity.
Whether indulging in a morning cup of coffee, going for a midday walk, or doing the laundry on a particular day of the week, our routines keep us sane and healthy.
A person with dementia is no exception. Familiar faces, familiar foods, and familiar environments work as a touchstone, a guide that the person can use to avoid getting lost.
Routine creates habits that are hard to shed – even a debilitating condition like dementia is slow to destroy habits that are deeply ingrained.
Thus, creating a structured and safe environment is an essential duty of a dementia caregiver. You can provide a consistent routine, set clear expectations, and take safety precautions.
Don’t Forget About Yourself in the Process
Caring for someone else takes a lot of work and dedication. You might not get much time for yourself and risk putting the person you’re taking care of ahead of yourself.
Empathy is essential and it’s what you should practice while you’re doing your work. However, you need to set clear boundaries and keep time for yourself when you can step out of the role of a caregiver.
If the role becomes all consuming and you frequently stress entire days about it, you will not be successful at caregiving.
A stressed caregiver cannot effectively help a person with dementia because the person senses and responds behaviorally to the tension. This can make their symptoms worse.
If the role gets overwhelming at times, you can consider hiring paid caregivers for relief.
The Bottom Line
Each person with dementia experiences different symptoms and challenges. You must tailor your approach to your loved one’s needs. Be patient and flexible, and don’t forget to practice self-care. You can be a good caregiver to your loved one with the right support and training. There are many tools and resources available to help you on this caregiving journey.
About the Author:
Lyle Solomon has extensive legal experience, in-depth knowledge, and experience in consumer finance and writing. He has been a member of the California State Bar since 2003. He graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, in 1998 and currently works for the Oak View Law Group in California as a principal attorney.