Whenever a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, we usually feel shocked and helpless at first. We might also feel like we are the only person in the world who has had to deal with that particular disease.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to the internet, charities and support groups, there are a range of free resources you can use to help you learn how to be an effective caregiver so you can help your loved one cope with their dementia.
Your first resource will be the doctor who has made the diagnosis. Knowing what stage the dementia is at can help you take the best actions to maintain their independence for as long as possible.
It is hard to deal with becoming a caregiver overnight. If a loved one has been showing signs of dementia such as memory loss or personality change, it can be difficult to deal with – especially if you already have a full-time job and perhaps even young children at home you also need to care for.
A diagnosis of dementia is not the end of the world, but it will probably mean you and your loved one dealing with a "new normal" in terms of your routines and level of care.
Here are five ways to deal with the new situation for both of you.
1. Talk to Healthcare Professionals
They will be able to give you all of the answers to physical issues that will arise with your loved one. Doctors can describe the changes to expect and when. This will prepare you for what you will see on a daily basis. It will not be a sprint to the end, but rather a marathon, so you need to develop smart strategies for getting through each challenge as it comes.
2. Talk to a Counselor
A counselor can help you deal with your emotions and like the doctor, point you in the direction of a range of ways to support your loved one and yourself at this challenging time. Your loved one may qualify for home nursing care and other services like Medicare or Medicaid, wheelchairs and home health supplies and so on. Don’t let false pride stand in the way of asking for help.
3. Find a Support Group
You will suffer a range of emotions as a caregiver for a person with dementia, ranging from worry and frustration to resentment, and even anger at helping a person who has become a stranger to you and may not even know your name. A support group can help you vent and also provide valuable information on dementia, its stages, and what has worked best for them as they have cared for their loved ones.
4. Don’t Neglect Yourself
You will not be able to care for anyone if you do not first care for yourself. Take time for the things you enjoy, and practice stress relief and relaxation techniques as needed. Be sure to eat well and not rob yourself of sleep.
5. Know All about Their Medications
Your loved one will probably come home with prescriptions from their doctor. Check the dosages, when to give them, and what side effects to look out for. Create a schedule and stick to it. A pill organizer can help. Fill it up once a week so you don’t have to fiddle with a lot of bottles every time they need their medications.
Being thrust into a caregiving role is never easy, but these steps after a diagnosis of dementia can help your loved one maintain their independence and ability to function for longer.