If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, PLEASE remember to take care of yourself as well

August 9 – There are many people in the country taking care of an aging loved one – and the job is most definitely difficult.

But there are people who can help.

Vivian Dodge, the executive director of Chapters Health Hospice, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about caring for family members.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know when a person is ready for hospice and Chapters Health Hospice can help.

Dodge said, “That conversation can happen between our team, the community physician, the family and the individual. We can work together to identify criteria and eligibility depending on the various conditions and diagnosis that someone has.”

Hospice is not just for the final days of life – it can help for months and include support for the individual and the family network as a whole.

Sometimes hospice patients were previously dementia patients.

Dodge said, “Whether or not a loved one with dementia is in hospice or not when it comes to caring for someone with dementia, knowledge is key.”

Care giving is hard work and can be physically and emotionally frustrating. Arguments can happen between family members.

Dodge said, “We have to remember that a dementia patient does not have the ability to think and reason like we do. They may believe certain ideas and correcting them does not necessarily help and may actually contribute to both parties becoming more frustrated.”

The best action is to go with the flow of the conversation. If someone believes there’s a cat in the corner when there’s not, don’t correct them, instead ask them about the cat.

Dodge said, “Constantly correcting that individual causes them to become more upset. Don’t take any negative behavior personally. We have to remember that their minds are not processing or functioning as well as it used to.”

Independence given to a dementia patient is determined by the stage of the disease. In an early or mid-level stage, many people can still perform daily activities with minimal assistance.

Dodge said, “If they are able, let them do as much as they can while they are still able. As the disease progresses and you get into the mid-level stage and progressing toward more advanced, give them simple tasks, simple choices.”

As independence decreases, helping them keep a sense of self is good for them emotionally. Maybe they can decide if they want to wear a green shirt or a red shirt. Maybe they can help set the table.

Dodge said, “As the disease progresses, obviously the mind and the brain loses the capacity to follow commands and do things on their own.”

Safety also goes along with independence and it’s critical.

Avoid scattered rugs. Keep pathways clear of obstructions. Falling is a serious risk.

Dodge said, “As the disease progresses one’s gait becomes more impaired. So keep a walker close at hand. Use a sturdy shower chair in the bathroom for support while doing personal hygiene. Use good footwear. Good shoes, versus having them walk in socks or slippers, which could contribute to falling.”

Baby monitors could also help.

When having a meal, use dishes with contrasting colors. Dementia patients tend to focus on the bright blue or bright red and may help them differentiate between the plates.

Finger foods may also be helpful.

A daily routine is also important – planned meals, planned days, planned activities. It makes the day more structured and can provide more enjoyment for the dementia patient.

Dodge said, “A routine is always more helpful to keep them on a more even keel.”

Sundowning is also a condition that shows up in dementia patients.

Dodge explained, “Dementia can actually damage the body’s circadian clock, which dictates the body’s daily rhythm. So sundowning is a change in a person’s sleep cycle. So they may be more sleepy during the day and as dusk comes on, they become more awake. It’s almost as if they are in opposite of what we would normally do in our every day life.”

So by late afternoon, dementia patients could become restless, irritable or confused. It can often worsen as daylight fades.

Dodge said, “That’s very difficult for a family member who’s tired at the end of the day and is hoping to sleep. Sundowning varies in degrees of severity and can be a result of the change in a routine or that person being overly tired or too much noise in their environment.”

Care givers are reminded to take care of themselves and ask for help.

Dodge said, “Do one little thing for yourself every day. It is so important and so beneficial to your own help. Just 20 minutes every day. Read a book or a religious passage. Savor a cup of coffee or tea. Take 30 minutes. Visit with a friend either in person or chat on the phone. Just 10 seconds to stretch and take a few deep breaths and really focus on the things in which you can control for that 10 seconds or 30 minutes every day and you will find that it’s a little easier to keep going day in and day out. Not easy, but it’s something that you have to do for your own personal health.”

Those caregiving tips are good for anyone caring for another person, whether it’s for dementia or in hospice.

For more information or help, click here: https://www.chaptershealth.org/