Finding out that your loved one has Alzheimer's disease or a form of dementia is news no one wants to receive. It’s a heartbreaking experience to watch memories and everyday motor functions fade. On top of progressive memory loss, Alzheimer’s and dementia often lead to personality changes and drastic mood changes that affect the relationship between caregivers and family members.
It can be hard to accept that someone close to you has dementia but ignoring it will only make matters worse. We know it's daunting to face, but addressing their mental health early on, creating a safe environment, and finding caregiver resources will help ensure the best quality of life for both you and your loved one.
At Weatherly Inn, we offer more than just a comforting community for older adults and long-term care for seniors. We have developed a highly specialized memory care program that focuses on the needs of individuals with dementia and Alzheimer's. We want to help you feel prepared and supported as you evaluate care options.
In this blog, we’ll cover all the essentials you need to know about dementia, such as:
- Spotting the signs of dementia
- Coming to terms with a dementia diagnosis
- How to care for a family member with dementia
- Creating a safe environment
Spotting the Signs of Dementia
It's hard to recognize the difference between occasional forgetfulness and the more serious signs of memory loss, especially in older adults. As brain health naturally deteriorates with age, some memory problems are normal. This is why it’s so important to know and recognize the signs of early-stage dementia. Catching it early and finding support services can ensure a spouse or relative receives the care they need.
One sign your loved one may be struggling with dementia is if you notice changes in their personality. Common issues include getting frustrated when they can’t remember something, lashing out at you or other family members, and even becoming aggressive. As their condition progresses, these issues can get worse, so it’s important to consult your healthcare provider as soon as you notice changes.
Dementia can also affect cognitive function, an impairment that can affect your loved one’s ability to take care of themselves. They might begin missing doses of their medications, forgetting to pay their bills, or even forgetting to bathe themselves. Family caregiver support can go a long way to keeping your family member in their home, but eventually, you may need a more sustainable long-term solution.
The final sign to look out for if you’re concerned about a loved one’s health is falling. When an otherwise healthy adult suddenly begins having trouble with their balance, it might be a sign of a larger problem. If you plan on using home care, it will be important to create a dementia-friendly environment with safety features like handrails, soft floors, and clear walking paths throughout the house.
One or all of these signs are often the reason someone decides to take their family member to the doctor. The next step is understanding and accepting a dementia diagnosis.
Coming to Terms with a Dementia Diagnosis
Alzheimer’s and related dementias can be disorienting and frightening for the whole family. Your loved one might even resist getting the care they need. The Alzheimer’s Association reminds families that delusions and confusion are normal with memory loss, and to approach the situation with as much compassion and reassurance as possible.
As the primary caregiver, there will be many hurdles you’ll have to overcome. No matter the type of dementia, you’ll have to establish new daily routines, change communication styles, and adapt to a new way of life. Finding community resources and reaching out to caregiver support groups can help you find the information and support you need to navigate the transition.
Other helpful resources for coming to terms with a dementia diagnosis include:
- Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
- National Alliance for Caregiving
- Caregiver Action Network
- Family Caregiver Alliance
How to Care for a Family Member with Dementia
Older adults suffering from memory loss will struggle with many activities of daily living that we take for granted. Dementia caregivers often need to help family members with various personal hygiene tasks, such as bathing and toileting (if incontinence is an issue). You may also have to schedule their meals and help them eat if their motor functions are impaired. Most importantly, you’ll be in charge of managing their medications.
In addition to these tasks around the house, there are few things around town you’ll be responsible for as well. Because of the disabilities caused by dementia, few patients are able to drive themselves. This means you’ll be their chauffeur to and from doctors’ appointments and for errands such as the grocery store or pharmacy. You may also need to secure a financial power of attorney so you can manage their finances and make stops at the bank for them.
We know how tough caregiving can be! That’s why it’s critical not to forget to care for yourself too. Finding a caregiver support program or even just carving out a few hours a day to rest can go a long way to preserving your peace of mind and keeping your energy up.
Creating a Safe Environment
Because people with dementia are fidgety and often become disoriented, they have a high tendency to venture off without close supervision. It's essential to create clear boundaries, block off unsafe areas in the home, and make sure they don't have access to exits.
You can also take a proactive approach to wandering. If you have a fenced-in yard, you can let your loved one get some fresh air in the safety of that space. If it's a nice day out, you could go for a walk around the neighborhood with them. This is a great way to get exercise and help their overall well-being.
Wandering can be one of the hardest side effects of dementia that family caregivers will face. No matter how vigilant and watchful you are, at this stage in the illness, the burden often becomes too much to handle alone. Know that there are more options than moving your loved one into a nursing home. Options like adult daycare and respite care can give you temporary freedom to take a day off or time to run errands. Or if you need something long-term, you can find a memory care community that can create a care plan tailored to their needs.
Seek Professional Support Before You Need It
Initially, taking care of someone with dementia might seem manageable. But as the condition progresses and your loved one needs more qualified dementia caregivers, you might start wondering if they’d be more comfortable in a community. It’s important to discuss these feelings with your family, so the decision to move a parent or grandparent into full-time dementia care is unanimously supported.
Caring for a senior family member or loved one with dementia takes tremendous strength and patience. We encourage you in this role and hope you have the support you need. During this difficult time, it's good to do your research and get positive referrals. Make sure the facility you're considering provides not only exceptional healthcare but also a warm and comforting environment.
That's what we strive to do at Weatherly Inn. Our memory care program checks all the boxes by providing state-of-the-art health resources while also keeping our residents engaged through fun activities and socializing. You can schedule a virtual tour of our beautiful communities to get a closer look at our top-notch care and see if it's a good fit for your loved one.