Tips for Caregivers Coping with Dementia: Guide to Caring for Your Loved One & Yourself

Tips for Caregivers Coping with Dementia: Guide to Caring for Your Loved One & Yourself

Caregivers coping with dementia often face an array of challenging emotions. Having a loved one diagnosed with dementia can make you feel angry, sad, and scared for the future all at the same time. However, it's important to remember that you're not alone. 

At the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center, we offer multiple solutions designed to help caregivers cope with their loved one's cognitive impairment. Let's take a closer look at a few tips caregivers can use to best care for themselves and their loved ones living with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. 

Patience: A Key Element 

Your loved one with a diagnosis of dementia may struggle with communication, have memory problems, and find difficulties performing day-to-day activities. This can lead to agitation on their part and yours. However, it's important for you to work toward relieving the mental and emotional stress. 

Even though you may have a lot on your plate, failing to be patient with your loved one or rushing them will not help. On the contrary, it can lead to frustration and agitation for you both. 

The better solution is to approach everything with patience at the forefront of your mind. When you ask a question or are performing a task, give your loved one the time they need to respond. Provide one statement or command at one time, and repeat yourself, as needed.  

Speak Easy and Simply

As we previously mentioned, communication problems are a common dementia symptom. Because of this, it's ideal to communicate strategically. For example, it may not be the best solution to ask open-ended questions. 

As your loved one's dementia progresses, they may struggle with connecting information into clear responses and ideas. Instead, it's less anxiety inducing to ask closed-ended questions that require a simple “yes” or “no”. Other communication tips you can use include:

  • Engage your loved one in one-on-one conversations in a quiet space with minimal distractions.
  • Try to maintain eye contact
  • Speak clearly and slowly
  • Ask one question at a time
  • Offer reassurance and be patient
  • Try not to correct or criticize. Instead, work to listen for the meaning and repeat what they said for clarification.
  • Offer visual cues and demonstrate tasks to encourage participation.

Incorporate Laughter into Your Coping Strategies

Laughter is good for the soul — no matter who you are. At the same time, laughter has been proven to be especially helpful and beneficial to those with memory loss. According to one study, telling jokes to a loved one can function in the exact way of utilizing medication to alleviate stress. 

Laughter can also help you by serving as a pressure-release valve for frustrations you may be holding onto as the caregiver. If your loved ones can communicate through body language and facial expressions, finding meaningful ways to connect with them can be impactful for you and your loved one.

Incorporate Exercise in the Daily Routine

Age-appropriate exercise is proven to help improve health in old age while slowing the pace of brain damage and cognitive decline. On the other hand, studies suggest that a sedentary lifestyle increases the likelihood that dementia will set in. Participating in simple exercises with your loved one can help stimulate blood circulation to the brain. 

One goal to strive for is to participate in at least 20 minutes of exercise a day. Whether it's a simple walk or gardening, cardiovascular exercise can help improve clarity and bring surroundings into clearer focus. However, safety always comes first. Consult with yours and your loved one's physician prior to starting any type of exercise. 

Simplify Activities into Steps

When you're participating in activities with your loved one, one trick is to break everything down into easier steps. This helps make the task much easier for dementia patients. Then, offer encouragement to your loved one on what they can do well. 

If they forget a step, gently remind them and offer assistance with the parts they're no longer able to complete. You can also use visual cues as prompts. 

Self-Care is a Must When Caring for a Person with Dementia

 One of the most often overlooked — but most important — tasks is to care for yourself. Your mental health, physical, and emotional wellbeing are critical to your loved one with dementia. Here are a few tips you can personally use to ensure you're being your best self:

And, you should never be afraid or ashamed to ask family and friends for help because you can't do everything yourself. Traditionally, this is one area where caregivers struggle. 

However, everyone needs help from time to time. Ideally, you should have a list of family members or friends, and professionals who can help stand in and offer assistance. 

Contact Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center for Support

Coping with dementia is difficult for everyone impacted, especially as the disease progresses. However, it is especially challenging for family caregivers. To help you move forward and be your best self, the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center offers specialized caregiver services. 

Our support groups are facilitated by a licensed social worker and regularly attended by other caregivers. The goal of our support groups is to help reduce the stress, isolation, and depression commonly associated with being a caregiver. Some of our support groups even specialize in relationships (i.e. spousal, adult children). Information regarding our caregiver counseling services can be found here:

Contact Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center today by calling (516) 767-6856, or contact us online.

About the Author Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center

At the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center, our mission is to improve the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia, and their caregivers. We actively work to achieve this mission through research-based programming for all stages of Alzheimer’s, Caregiver Support Groups, in-home respite solutions, transportation options, and additional services.

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Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia?