Dementia is one of the leading causes of dependency and mental impairment among elderly people in the United States. Maryville University states that the number of U.S. citizens over the age of 65 has doubled from the 35 million in the early 2000s, to nearly 50 million in 2016. These numbers may also explain the sudden spike in dementia cases in the country. In fact, as of last year, an estimated 5.7 million Americans had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Dementia can happen to anyone — and that includes your loved ones too. So it helps to be physically and mentally prepared to deal with the situation if it comes. Here are some tips to show your love and support for family members and friends with dementia.
Ask yes or no questions
One common mistake carers make is to ask their patients open-ended questions like “What would you like to eat today?” People suffering from dementia may find it hard to convey their thoughts when responding to questions. Instead, ask questions like “Would you like an apple?” – things that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
Keep up conversations
According to Medical News Today, people with dementia struggle to express their feelings. Unfortunately, this only causes them unnecessary stress and agitation. Instead, try and initiate the conversations yourself. You can engage them by asking leading questions like “Have you ever tried this sandwich before – I heard it’s great!” That can help them put their thoughts into words.
Use touch to deliver your message
As previously mentioned, patients with dementia struggle with words. The message will come across clearer if you use touch. This translates to many actions such as hugs, kisses, and even brushing their hair, which sends a strong loving message. Of course, it goes without saying that you must first gauge the initial relationship you have with the dementia patient, and if they're the type to appreciate being touched.
Create a peaceful environment
A messy environment can cause sensory overload, so it can be mentally distressing for those with cognitive-related illnesses. At home, it's best to avoid designs with busy patterns, or leaving the TV on which causes “background noise”. You might find this therapeutic, but the same can't be said for those suffering with dementia. Instead, try to make the room as clean and comfortable as possible. Filling it with scents like lavender can also help calm their mind.
Use assistive tools and equipment
Seemingly simple tasks like walking, reading, and eating can become a challenge for dementia patients. Though this disease is typically associated with memory loss, that’s just one part of it. After all, dementia also affects a person's cognitive and motor functions, such as their ability to think, reason, and control their muscles. You can use assistive tableware like the ones by EATWELL, walking canes, or wheelchairs to make things easier for them.
Now that you know how challenging it is to take care of someone suffering with dementia, make sure you plan ahead. Not just for the sake of the one currently going through the disease, but also for your other loved ones who could suffer from it in the future. At the end of the day, you should just strive to be as present and comforting as possible.
By Gertrude Franklin
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