Critter Corner: Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became a Caregiver

Dear Hayek,

My mother, who has dementia, is moving in with me. Is there anything I should know before I embark upon this new role? Thanks for your help!

Thanks!
Juana Knowe
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Dear Juana,

It is very kind of you to care for your mother with dementia in your home, and understandable that you want to have an idea about what to expect.

The following are some tips from dementia care specialists on caring for a loved one with dementia, just to give you an idea:

– Instead of arguing with a loved one with dementia, join her in her reality. If your mom believes she is young or going on a trip or seeing an old friend, for instance, don’t doubt it. Trying to explain facts and bringing your loved one to understand reality may only bring confusion, anxiety, fear, and anger.

– Don’t be afraid to seek help: Taking care of a loved one with dementia can be an exhausting and lonely job. If you seek help from family and friends or sometimes seek assistance with in-home care, you are not giving up on your mom. Respite care is also good to take advantage of. You don’t need to do it alone!

– Monitoring systems can be helpful: Some people with dementia may wander. For example, many people with dementia remember very well their old lives and want to go to work, buy groceries, visit friends, and very often go “home” to their childhood home or a home they lived in many years ago to see parents or siblings or spouses who died many years ago. People with dementia living with these past memories often leave the house in confusion and go “wandering” (unable to find their childhood home that holds such fond memories or the grocery store that they used to shop at 40 years ago), and and in this state of confusion, they of course get lost. A medical alarm device or smart watch with a location will help you monitor your mom’s movements, and some even monitor vitals as well. There are also apps available to help you to remind your mom to take her medication and do other simple activities such as take her meals and take a shower. (Link to FLF article on apps).

– Even with dementia, patients can still be independent: When you realize that your loved one with dementia is not helpless and that she can still do some things on her own, let her, as long as it’s not dangerous. Both your lives will be easier and happier.

– It’s okay to feel guilty and lonely sometimes: There are times you will feel down, and all alone, but those times will pass. During such moments, it is crucial to take care of yourself and take some time for yourself. Talk to someone and get help or seek respite care, as described in the article above. You can still live a healthy enjoyable life and take care of your mom.

Hope this is helpful,
Hayek

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