As life expectancy increases, so does the likelihood of elderly dementia. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the likelihood of an elderly individual experiencing dementia increases exponentially with age. Individuals who are 65 years to 74 years of age have a 2% chance of developing elderly dementia, whereas the likelihood increases to 30% for individuals 85 years of age or older.
The symptoms of elderly dementia range from memory loss, aggression and loss of physical mobility to paranoia, disorientation and mood swings. Sufferers of dementia may experience hallucinations and delusions, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. Although elderly dementia affects each person differently the symptoms of dementia will lead to the loss of an ability to perform daily tasks such as cooking, driving, and remembering to take medications. The responsibility for care of a loved one with dementia often falls to the family.
Caring for a loved one who is dealing with elderly dementia is a time consuming, emotional experience. Caregivers may experience impatience, resentment and anger as well as guilt for having those feelings. Those caring for a loved one dealing with elderly dementia may also experience feelings of grief and loss although their loved one is still with them. This type of loss is explained in the book “Ambiguous Loss” by Pauline Boss.
In order to effectively balance all the thoughts, feelings and emotions, that come with caring for a loved one dealing with elderly dementia it is important to understand what that loved one is experiencing. Facing a diagnosis of dementia is frightening and frustrating. It is important to have a plan that will make daily life manageable.
#1 Tip for helping a loved one dealing with elderly dementia
Remember when the diagnosis is initially given, your loved one may not feel any different outside of some memory loss or confusion. He or she may still be able to manage daily activities at home and in a social setting. It is important to support a loved one dealing with elderly dementia in continuing these activities as long as possible. The progression of dementia is unpredictable and some days will be better than others. It is important to be patient and to keep tasks and activities short and simple. However, whenever possible encourage your loved one to participate in daily activities.
#2 Tip for helping a loved one dealing with elderly dementia
Meal time will become increasingly more of a challenge as your loved one dealing with elderly dementia loses the ability to cook and eat independently. It is important to take safety measures that will not allow your loved one to access appliances or objects that may be harmful. Leave healthy snacks that are readily accessible for your loved one. Place pictures on drawers and cabinets which hold items your loved one will need to access.
As your loved one dealing with elderly dementia increasingly requires help to eat it is essential to be patient, to maintain eye contact and to keep your loved one engaged in the process. Talk about the meal, how you prepared it, where you found the recipe. Although your loved one may not respond, this will offer a level of normalcy and equality for your loved one dealing with elderly dementia.
#3 Tip for helping a loved one dealing with elderly dementia
Another concern for your loved one dealing with elderly dementia is malnutrition. As your loved one may forget to eat if not properly supervised during meal times a liquid whole food supplement such as Body Balance produced by Lifeforce International, offers all nutrients needed by the human body every day. A simple 2-4 oz. dose per day will give additional nutritional support.
#4 Tip for helping a loved one dealing with elderly dementia
The necessity for personal care can be an area of special frustration for your loved one dealing with elderly dementia. A process that once was solely private and independent of others will progressively require the aid of another. It is important to allow your loved one to continue as much personal care as possible while you stay nearby. Assist with dressing by giving clothes to your loved one in the order in which they need to be put on. Verbally encourage them or suggest what they need to do next, such as “here is your shirt”, or “socks go on next”.
Be sure to remove any items from bedrooms and bathrooms such as razors and harmful medications once it is no longer safe for your loved one who is dealing with elderly dementia, to use those items on their own. Special devices can be placed on faucets to control the temperature of the water, so your loved one will not be harmed by hot water.
#5 Tip for helping a loved one dealing with elderly dementia
It is important to seek social and community resources and support for both yourself and your loved one who is dealing with elderly dementia. It is essential that you do not attempt to shoulder the full responsibility of caregiving. Many communities have adult day centers which allow for caregivers to have a break, or to run errands as well as offers social interaction and intellectual stimulation for a loved one dealing with elderly dementia.
Following is a list of some good online resources for caregivers of loved ones dealing with elderly dementia.
National Eldercare Locator
Alzheimer’s Association-Adult Day Centers
Family Caregiver Alliance
Meals on Wheels Association of America