Dementia – a group of brain diseases that affect about 50 million people worldwide – is a cruel and ruthless disease. It may not cause you any harm, physically, but it causes gradual degeneration of your brain to the point that you become unable to even carry out daily life activities. While dementia is incurable, there are treatments to slow down its progression and ways to improve the quality of life of dementia patients.
3 Essential Tips for Caregivers to Improve the Quality of Life for Dementia Patients
Here are some of the tips shared by professional caregivers to prevent loneliness, depression, and destructive behavior among dementia patients and make their life better in general:
1. Make Them Feel Safe
The cognitive decline that dementia patients go through not only affects their memory, and their abilities to think and reason but also makes them gradually lose the sense of time and place. As a result, they struggle to make sense of the world around them and feel disconnected from both people and the place they live in. This feeling of disconnect and the difference between their perceived and the actual reality often results in anxiety and fear in dementia patients. If not properly deal with, this fear and insecurity can lead to aggression and even destructive behaviors.
Due to all these factors, making patients feel safe and secure is the topmost priority in dementia care.
The first step to creating a safe environment for people with dementia is to know them better, emphasizing on identifying things that makes them uncomfortable, anxious, or insecure. Find out what make them feel unsafe or threatened and then eliminate those factors from their environment.
An important thing to note here is that this is an ongoing process. The perspectives and behaviors of people with dementia continue to change over time. They can develop new fears over time and may also overcome a few. Similarly, things and people they feel comfortable with now may become sources of anxiety or insecurity in the future as their disease progresses.
2. Communicate and Encourage Social Interaction
It can be challenging, particularly as the disease progresses to advanced stages, but it’s essential to keeping dementia patients healthy and happy. The lack of communication and interaction is among the reasons why people with dementia feel alienated, lonely, and depressed. Talk to them about small things, like what they want to eat, how they feel, and what they are thinking.
A great way to encourage social interaction is to make them part of a dementia-friendly community, take them out for walks, or sometimes invite family and friends over for a game or an activity that they enjoy.
3. Engage Them in Creative/ Meaningful Activities
The feeling of being lonely and useless can lead to anger and agitation in people with dementia. Over time, this not only negatively impacts the quality of their life but can also cause a significant decline in their health. Helping dementia patients develop hobbies is a great way to make them feel included and useful.
For better results, choose activities that not only keep them busy but will also offer a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Activities like painting, gardening, and walking a pet are known to be quite helpful. Depending on what stage of the disease a patient is, you can also include them in small (and safe) house chores, like separating and/or folding the laundry, cleaning their room, watering plants, or feeding a pet.
Be Kind and Patient!
Since dementia is a set of progressive brain diseases, patients’ mental capabilities continue to decline with time. As the disease progresses, dealing with a dementia patient continues to get increasingly difficult. You may experience communication barriers as dementia patients’ speech may become hard to understand, or their conversations do not make sense. They may also display behavioral issues and get more stubborn.
Taking care of a dementia patient is a demanding task, and it’s easier for caregivers to get tired and sometimes feel frustrated. However, keeping your cool is crucial when caring for a dementia patient. Be kind and compassionate to them. Understand that they are not deliberately doing it; the issues they are exhibiting are beyond their control. So, be kind to them.