Are you living with loved one who is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia? If you are, then you are suffering, too. Living with a parent or spouse whose mental capacity is deteriorating is one of the most painful, stressful, frustrating things a person can do. Besides the personal family experience we’ve had with this struggle, we hear many times each week from caregivers asking us for suggestions on what to do when the person they love is in severe cognitive decline. Because this is such an important topic, we were drawn to this recent article on an Australian website called Starts at 60. It’s titled “Living with a Loved One Who Has Dementia,” and while the article is pretty basic, it does contain a few valuable suggestions that might help you overcome some of the frustration you feel as a caregiver.
The article quotes aging expert Lisa Hee who suggests that it’s probably not so important to try to get your loved one to get their facts straight when communicating with them. Constantly correcting them about names, places and dates may only provoke more confusion and irritation. What’s worse, she writes, every time you try to correct your loved one it will seem to them like they’re hearing this information for the first time. Chances are that’s only going to compound the communication problem.
Instead, the best way to cope may be to “leave your loved one in their happy place” by going with the flow of their thoughts. For example, she states, “If they remember their life from ten years ago, then talk about life as it was then.” This may calm them down and reassure them, and you’re more likely to keep them talking if you try to meet them, not in the reality of the moment, but in the reality of their own perception.
Another good idea from the article is to surround your loved one with personal items from various times in their lives. This not only gives you something to talk about, but it also helps other caregivers and nursing home staff learn more about your loved one so their lives take on color, meaning and significance. A chronological photo album is a great tool to accomplish this, especially one that includes pictures of things your loved one might recognize – an old car, for example – or houses where they lived, or familiar landmarks from their home town.
We wanted to know more about this topic so we went to this extremely helpful page on the information-rich website of the Alzheimer’s Association. The heading on this particular page is “Tips for Daily Life,” and it takes a unique perspective: these tips are written for the person with dementia. We think caregivers will find it extremely helpful, too. As promised it lists many insightful ideas, including some “coping strategies” from people who are actually living with Alzheimer’s. We strongly suggest you visit this page if you need fresh encouragement and inspiration in your role as a caregiver. Here are just a few of the ideas on how those with dementia can better cope with challenges of daily living.
First, someone with dementia needs to set realistic daily goals, and this is where you as a caregiver can help. Your loved one should focus only on what he or she can accomplish and be willing to ask for help when they require it. Keep expectations realistic.
Second, someone with dementia needs a daily routine. Again, as a caregiver you can help give their day greater predictability by assisting them in deciding what needs to be done each day and how long it should take. Then do those things in sequence. For someone with dementia, predictability is reassuring – they can tend to become fearful or uneasy when faced with sudden changes or surprises.
Third, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests those with dementia need to learn to approach one task at a time. Don’t get stuck, they say, if a task is too difficult – take a break and try again later. As a caregiver you can help redirect your loved one’s attention away from a frustrating task and toward something where they can succeed. Every small victory builds confidence.
There are more valuable ideas, but we like this final suggestion: “Use your sources of strength.” If you are a caregiver for someone with dementia, you are certainly one of those sources of strength for your loved one, but there are others, including family, friends, prayer, even a beloved pet. As a caregiver, help your loved one see that he or she is not going through this journey alone. At AgingOptions we always say that aging is a family affair, and nowhere is that more true than when dealing with the effects of dementia.
Of course, the most important thing all of us need to remember as we age is that we need a solid plan for the future if we’re going to have the type of retirement we’ve always hoped for. Like most people, we’re certain you want to protect your assets in retirement. You don’t want to be forced into institutional care against your will, and you don’t want to become a burden to those you love. Is there a way to plan ahead so that your wishes will be fulfilled? Fortunately, the answer is a confident “yes.” We call our unique concept for retirement planning “LifePlanning.” LifePlanning is uniquely comprehensive because it takes into account all the critical aspects of your retirement future – your financial security, your legal affairs, your housing choices, your medical needs and your family support. A LifePlan is your blueprint to help you build the retirement of your dreams.
It’s easy to learn more, so we invite you to invest just a few hours and attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. You’ll find a list of current seminar dates and locations here. Once you’ve made your choice of locations, you can register online or contact us for further details and assistance. It will be our pleasure to meet you and to help guide you into a more secure and fruitful future.