Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging. At Ochsner Health, we’ve launched a caregiver support program to help caregivers and people with dementia. In this program and our larger memory care program, we’ve created a top 5 list of things to keep in mind when caring for someone with dementia:
1. Caregiving is a team sport: Often, our caregivers are overstressed because they are the only one providing support. Seek out help in the following ways:
- Identify a core group who can help, such as siblings, adult children, grandchildren, neighbors or friends. Don’t think to yourself “They are too busy.” Everyone likely has an hour or two to spare. If you don’t ask, they can’t say yes! Also, don’t assume that your loved one with dementia won’t accept someone else in the home. After all, if you couldn’t provide help, certainly someone would have to step in.
- Communicate what you need and see what each person’s capacity is.
- Create a schedule where people rotate different times or days. This helps not having to call people last minute and giving everyone a sense of routine. People with certain skills (helping with bathing, taking to the mall) can be scheduled at the best times, and the primary caregiver doesn’t have to feel like they are asking since everyone has signed up.
- Schedule self-care activities when you aren’t with your loved one. Don’t feel guilty when you are gone. Maybe they want a break from you, too!
2. When your loved one with dementia yells, seems agitated or paranoid and has trouble accepting help, don’t take it personally. Remember the 4 R’s to help manage your feelings:
- Reframe: Remember their agitation, irritability, mean words, paranoia and so forth is related to their brain disease. Remind yourself of this and don’t take it personally.
- Refrain: Refrain from arguing or trying to convince someone with dementia to your side. This just makes it worse.
- Redirect: Change the subject when your loved one has an outburst or won’t stop talking about something. Try talking about a pleasant memory with them or ask them to help with folding the clothes or some other simple task. Distraction is key!
- Remove: This can be hard to do but removing yourself from sight can also be helpful. Put on headphones, take a pretend call, go into the bathroom, or go for a walk if safe to leave them. The point is to give the dementia patient 10-30 minutes for the memory to fade and reset.
3. Take care of yourself: Caregivers must sschedule rest, breaks, enjoyable activities and so forth. After all, tired caregivers aren’t at their best!
4. Find a support group: At Ochsner and around the area, there are lots of support groups. Most caregivers feel a sense of relief and peace when they connect with others going through similar struggles.
5. Review reliable information: For the most accurate information, visit ochsner.org/betterbrain, or discuss with your Ochsner care provider about the best places for dementia advice. We like these websites: