Supporting your loved one with a dementia diagnosis
It’s not easy to accept a dementia diagnosis, both for the recipient and supporting family and friends. It’s important to remember, though, that it’s possible to live a ‘normal’ life in the first few years, using personal coping strategies to help with the initial symptoms. However, when the condition progresses further and behaviour changes become more evident, they will likely need to receive further support from trusted family and friends. This can be difficult to experience from the care-giver’s point of view, so it’s a good idea to know the best ways that you, as the carer, can deal with this for the benefit of your relationship with your loved one.
The importance of communication
As the condition progresses, verbal communication will become more difficult. It will, therefore, become highly beneficial for both you and your loved one to make good use of body language, written communication and facial expressions, using them to convey feelings and emotions. It’s important, however, to use positive gestures, perhaps through smiling or affection – and this can be of particular value when your loved one is experiencing feelings of anxiety. Using visual cues is a great way to communicate with your loved one, such as leaving written notes; these can be used to help them keep track of daily tasks.
Listen to your loved one wholeheartedly
It’s particularly important to listen closely to your loved one as their condition progresses. They may not be able to convey their feelings or desires coherently, so you may need to try and interpret what they are trying to communicate to you. Listen with love and patience, and try to help fill in the gaps where you can.
Try to simplify their decisions
When suffering with dementia, it can be overwhelming to be faced with choices and decisions that need to be made. Decisions associated with daily tasks, such as choosing the outfit for the day or what to have for breakfast, can become difficult at the later stages. To avoid confusion and unnecessary feelings of anxiety, try to present just two choices to your loved one, so they still have the freedom of making decisions – but with less stress.
It can be hard to remain optimistic when, as the carer, you’re spending so much of your time looking after your loved one, whilst also juggling other life commitments. It can be emotionally and physically demanding, but negative feelings do have the ability to transfer to your loved one. Remaining positive stems from taking the time to look after your own health, perhaps by taking one evening per week to pamper yourself.
Relationships with others
Those suffering with dementia can be susceptible to feelings of isolation, especially when the ability to communicate becomes more difficult. It’s important to try and keep their relationships alive as much as you can, and this can be done by involving them in local community and social groups to encourage interaction with likeminded people.
It can be hard to remember the relationship you had with your loved one before their diagnosis; but try to instil the same levels of love and affection, however hard it gets. Take a look at our previous blog, which looks at the importance of self-care when you’re caring for a loved one.