Caring for a Loved One with Dementia

Caring for someone with dementia can be a challenging and stressful experience for families and caregivers. People with dementia from conditions such as Alzheimer’s and related diseases have a progressive biological brain disorder that makes it more and more difficult for them to remember things, think clearly, communicate with others, and take care of themselves. In addition, dementia can cause mood swings and even change a person’s personality and behavior.

Since there is currently no cure for these devastating diseases, caregiving and support makes all the difference to a loved one’s quality of life. In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, most people function independently and the care partner’s role is to provide support and help plan for the future. This may include legal, financial, and long-term care planning. The person living with dementia and the caretaker also can take advantage of available resources and support services, which can provide information, address concerns, and help reduce anxiety about the future.

As the disease progresses through different stages, a loved one’s needs increase. They may experience a range of dementia-associated behaviors, including:

  • Wandering: Walking aimlessly for any number of reasons, such as boredom, medication side effects, or to look for something or someone.
  • Repetitive Speech or Actions: Repeating a word, statement, question, or activity, which can be particularly stressful for the caregiver.
  • Incontinence: Accidents happen when someone can’t remember where the bathroom is located or can’t get to it in time.
  • Agitation: A range of behaviors including irritability, sleeplessness, and verbal or physical aggression.
  • Paranoia: Suddenly becoming suspicious, jealous, or accusatory.
  • Sleeplessness/Sundowning: Behaviors such as restlessness, agitation, and disorientation can get worse at the end of the day and may continue through the night.
  • Hygiene: Difficulty remembering routine self-care activities such as brushing teeth, bathing, and changing clothes.

As a loved one’s cognitive and functional abilities decline over time, caregiving becomes more challenging. The fatigue, anxiety, sadness, and isolation can become overwhelming. At the same time, the loved one’s ability to show appreciation diminishes, and caregiving can seem like a thankless task.

It is common for caregivers to neglect their own well-being as they struggle to live their daily lives while coping with the needs of their loved ones. If you are caring for someone with dementia, being good to yourself is extremely important. Staying involved in activities you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family, eating well, and staying physically active, will help you avoid burnout and increased risk for health problems.

While the caregiving experience can vary widely from person to person, seeking support along the way is a necessity. Dorson Home Care provides a range of at-home dementia care services for residents of Northern and Central New Jersey and their families. Dorson Home Care, Inc. is fully licensed by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and is accredited by PCS & Skilled Services. To learn more about our dementia care services, please call our West Orange, NJ office at 973.672.7691.