Dementia is a general term for a decline in cognitive function that is enough to interfere with daily activities. Alzheimer's is the most common form, which accounts for 60-80% of cases.
A few signs of dementia include:
Some people with dementia show signs of agitation and frustration; this is because they know what they are trying to communicate, but they cannot process it and get the words out.
There are a few simple ways that you can help your loved one:
1. First, when communicating, be at their eye level, make eye contact, and speak slowly and softly.
2. Encourage socialization, which is important for all elderly people but especially with dementia patients because it will slow down the loss of cognitive function.
3. Encourage participation in thinking games or puzzles, such as crosswords, which is another way to potentially slow down the loss of cognitive function - something as simple as going over old nursery rhymes is a good way to help your loved one jog their memory.
4. Speaking of jogging, exercise is another simple thing to help your loved one: exercise benefits everybody but it helps patients stay strong as well as decreases the symptoms of depression and helps learn calming techniques.
5. Routine, routine, routine: By establishing a routine with your loved one they have a greater chance of being able to do more independently. Try having your loved one eat meals at the same time each day, shower on the same days each week and wake up and go to bed at the same time each day.
6. Encourage independence as much as possible, within what is safe for the person. This includes activities such as dressing and grooming or feeding. For instance, at the memory care facility I work at we have a resident who if you put her arms in her shirt for her she can pull it over her head. Or we have another resident who has trouble eating but if you help her by putting your hand over hers for the first few bites most of the time she can finish feeding herself for the rest of her meal.
7. Finally, talk to your loved one about what they would like to do when their disease progresses far enough where they can no longer take of themselves.
Remember, as hard as this time is for you, it is just as difficult for your loved one. They are going through changes they cannot explain and can find it very frustrating. Work together, and remember the few tips suggested above as ways to help you both cope with this condition. If you have further questions or would like to talk more, make an appointment with an Eltilla counselor today.
Written by Stephanie Dosser