In Singapore, one in 10 people aged above 60 has dementia. With the growing ageing population, it is estimated that by 2030, 103 000 people will be diagnosed with this syndrome. Dementia is described as a progressive brain condition where mental capacity declines over time. Not only does it affect one’s memory, the varied symptoms of dementia could also cover personality changes, volatile moods, loss of ability to communicate and carry out simple tasks. For many caregivers, these changes can often be demanding and stressful.
Here are some tips that could help alleviate the challenges when taking care of a loved one with dementia.
- Communicate gently
When you are speaking to someone with dementia, remember to always have a calm demeanour. Non-verbal communication is what most dementia patients rely on as they might not be able to process verbal information as effectively. It is not what you say, but how you say it.
It is also useful to communicate in short and clear sentences. Avoid asking open-ended questions. Instead, try presenting them with a choice of two options so that it’ll be easier for them to respond.
Lastly, always be respectful and patient with your loved one. They might be unresponsive or even react unexpectedly, but do not try to force them into a conversation if they are unwilling. Take a pause if you find yourself getting frustrated, and perhaps try again next time. Sometimes, it is enough to simply show up with your care and presence.
- Have a daily routine
Developing daily routines is crucial for people with dementia. Routines provide the stability and consistency that can reduce anxiety and stress for both you and your loved one. With routines, dementia patients will be less likely to fall into unexpected behavioural or mood changes. In addition, performing a task habitually will help them to retain their basic skills for longer.
When setting up a daily routine for your loved one, consider including activities that they would enjoy and are capable of doing. This could be having social interactions at community centres or online, performing simple physical exercises, or engaging in old hobbies.
- Make sure your home is safe
It can often be easy to overlook the potential risks that are present in your home for someone who has dementia, especially those whose condition is still mild. However, it is important to prepare and adjust accordingly for when the condition gradually worsens. Here are some pointers to consider:
- Minimise the risks of falls in your home by installing handrails and anti-slip flooring.
- Keep dangerous items in hard to reach places.
- Consider covering the locks for interior doors in case your loved ones accidentally lock themselves in.
- Set temperature and time limits for appliances that might cause burns.
Additionally, provide a spare key to someone whom you trust in case of an emergency.
- Exercise self-care
Being a caregiver to someone with dementia is not easy. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try to take some time off to clear your mind and do something that makes you happy. Ensure that your needs are met – and that includes your social needs. Your wellbeing is largely influenced by the quality of your connections with others, so it is important that you do not overlook this factor.
It is also beneficial to be involved in a community consisting of other caregivers. By sharing experiences and difficulties with others who are going through similar situations, you might feel less afraid or alone. TOUCH has launched a Caregivers’ Support Group on Facebook where you can connect with other caregivers and share resources on how to deal with the challenges of caretaking.
If you have any enquiries on caregiving for a loved one or want to find out how to make your home safer through home modification, please call TOUCH Care Line at 6804 6555 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm). Our team of occupational therapists will help to address your needs.
TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCG) was set up to help caregivers of older people cope with the challenges of caregiving. TCG also works closely with TOUCH Home Care’s (THC) trans-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and care coordinators to offer a suite of home-based care and support services. TCG also provides a one-stop service for home modifications to create a safer home environment for the elderly and their caregivers.