Caregiving is already an emotional and challenging endeavor for family members. But when our senior loved ones are given an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis, things can feel even more difficult and overwhelming. Read our advice for dementia caregivers, and learn about a space you can ask questions to a fellow caregiver, for a first-hand perspective.
More than 16 million people in the United States care for someone with dementia, so you are far from alone. That doesn’t make it any less challenging to be in your unique situation, but it can provide some comfort to know the ways the disease can progress and how you can support yourself and your loved ones.
How do I begin to prepare after the diagnosis?
When your loved one receives a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you might feel stressed or afraid of what’s to come. But if you learn what to expect and how the disease will progress, you will feel more in control and can create a care plan.
With your loved one’s doctor, discuss their current needs and the expectations for the disease’s progression. Search for local resources, support, and advice for Alzheimer’s caregivers. The more you know, the better support and care you’ll be able to provide to your loved one.
There are many options for you, your family, and in-home health aides to care for your loved one, but when the time comes for full-time care, you need to have your options laid out.
Remember that no matter how much preparation and research you perform, there is an immensely emotional side to this situation that must also be addressed as the disease progresses. Dig into resources and advice for dementia caregivers so you know how and when to reach out for help.
Make a plan
Once you have formed your knowledge base of the disease, you can begin to create a care plan for your loved one. This includes:
- Who is making health and finance decisions for your loved one when they become unable to?
- Who is performing what duties for your loved one?
- Where will they live, and how will their needs be met as the disease advances?
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia requires a true team effort. Sit down and make a list of all caregiving responsibilities you are able to take on. Meet with close friends and family to discuss the rest. If you are comfortable taking on most of the daily care efforts, things like housekeeping, yardwork, grocery shopping, and running errands can be passed on to others.
Make sure everyone is clear on their responsibilities, and each person is held accountable for their part. Everyone involved in caregiving deserves their own time and space for health and personal needs.
How do I prepare for the changes in my loved one?
In the early stages, it’s common for those with dementia to remain fairly independent but require memory help with cues and reminders. These reminders include appointments, words or names, managing money and medications, and planning.
For as much anxiety as you feel about your loved one, they probably feel it too, so it’s important to help them avoid stress, stay positive, and develop strong communication.
Learn how to communicate
Use clear, short, simple communication and do not get frustrated with your loved one for forgetting things. Remind yourself that they cannot help it, and if you stay calm and positive it will help them feel safe and at ease. Be prepared to repeat yourself, and use positive body language to encourage your loved one.
Establish routines and activities
Structure and daily routines are important for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Tasks that once were simple for them now are difficult, and this naturally can be very upsetting.
At first, allow your loved one as much independence as possible in their daily routines and step in where necessary. Help them get on a set routine that includes bathing and appointments when they are most alert. Reduce distractions as the day winds down.
You will need to remain flexible and adapt your routine to theirs, including changing your environment to be more safe and soothing if your loved one is living with you. Adjust your living space to be clutter-free and brightly lit, lock cabinets containing dangerous items, and add handrails around the home where necessary.
Take time for you
With as many adjustments and as much attention as your loved one requires, it is easy to let your needs fall behind. While creating schedules for your loved one, figure out ways to squeeze in your own appointments and ask for additional help so that you can be the best version of you — for yourself and your loved ones.
What do I do when I am unable to provide the care my loved one needs?
Despite in-home help you might hire as the disease progresses and the assistance from friends and family, there will come a time when symptoms reach a point that more advanced care is necessary.
Each caregiver will reach this point at a different stage, depending on your personal situation and what type of care you can provide. This doesn’t need to come in the late stages of dementia, either.
Finding an assisted living community early on in the diagnosis can be a great way for your loved one to age in place somewhere they can be safe and professionally cared for at every step of the disease’s progression.
Advice for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Caregivers
Deciding to move a loved one to an assisted living community can come with a tremendous amount of guilt from caregivers. Kensington family member Susan Evans knows this first-hand. She was overwhelmed with guilt at moving her father to an assisted living community, but found solace in the excellent memory care at Kensington Place.
What makes Kensington Place different?
Superb memory care
The memory care programs at Kensington Place are thoughtfully designed to meet you and your loved one where you are. There are two specialized memory care neighborhoods: Connections and Haven. Connections is for residents in the early to middle stages of dementia, and Haven is for residents in the middle to late stages.
The neighborhoods are cozy, secure environments for your loved one to thrive, with around-the-clock care from licensed nurses, rehabilitation and support programs, and care teams specializing in memory care.
Family nights and support groups are encouraged, and although this looks different during the COVID-19 pandemic, thoughtful adjustments have been made by Kensington Place staff to ensure our residents can still perform safe activities that make them feel happy and enrich their lives.
Please reach out to us to learn more about our memory care programs, our staff, and our dedication to your loved one. We promise to appreciate and honor every resident as if they’re our family, and we will share with you exactly how we live out our promise. We look forward to hearing from you.