Tips on Living with Dementia
What a lot of people don’t know is that Dementia is not a disease, but rather a syndrome. It’s basically a general term used to describe different disorders that affect the brain. Dementia occurs when parts of the brain responsible for decision-making, language, learning, and memory gets damaged or diseased. Dementia can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or social background. The risk, however, increases as you age.
What Happens In the Brain?
Our brains have billions of nerve cells responsible for sending messages to each other so we can respond to the world around us. Different diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Frontotemporal dementia, and Dementia with Lewy bodies, cause Dementia. These diseases form an excessive build-up of proteins in the brain. During Dementia, this build up becomes toxic and harms the brain’s nerve cells. The cells then lose the ability to communicate, get damaged, and eventually die. The loss of nerve cells causes the symptoms of Dementia which include memory loss, difficulty communicating, disorientation, personality changes, and so on.
Everyone deals with the challenges of Dementia differently; even so, being diagnosed with Dementia doesn’t mean life has to come to a standstill. There are several things you can do to continue enjoying life.
Tips for living with Dementia
Find Enjoyment Everyday
Despite the many challenges and adjustments that come with having Dementia, it helps to have a positive attitude towards life. You can have moments of laughter, gratitude, tenderness, and love with the people closest to you. Spend time on things you can still enjoy, as long as you can do them safely.
Keep a Routine
A firm, yet simple to follow daily or weekly routine can be really helpful. This can include time for taking walks, taking medication, and having your meals among other things. A routine reduces the frustrations and time you may have to spend figuring out what you want to do, making you more successful in accomplishing tasks and goals.
Stay Socially Active
Dementia isn’t something you want to go through alone. Engaging in social activities and talking to others is good for your mental well-being. You can also join a local dementia-friendly group where you can share your experiences and gain coping tips from others living with Dementia. Connecting with other people helps to avoid isolation and going into depression.
Look After Your Health
People living with Dementia often focus on improving their mental capacity and forget about keeping their entire body healthy. Just so you know mental and physical health go hand in hand. This means that you have to eat healthily, exercise regularly, get quality sleep, have your regular health checkups, and minimise alcohol intake and smoking or stop altogether.
Ask and Accept Help
A common concern for people diagnosed with Dementia is losing their independence. During the early stages of Dementia, you may be able to continue living at home and doing things for yourself. But as the symptoms progress, it’s likely that you’ll need assistance to manage everyday tasks from family members, friends, and even professional caregivers. Professional care can be offered at home, or in a residential facility or specialist centre designed specifically for those living with Dementia. The type of care, such as live in in care, you’ll receive will largely depend on your situation.
Advice for Caregivers of Dementia Patients
Caregivers play a vital role in keeping Dementia patients healthy and preserving their quality of life. But given the complicated nature of this condition, caregiving can prove to be physically and emotionally draining. As symptoms progress, it becomes more and more difficult to connect with someone with Dementia. But with a bit of common sense, respect, and sensitivity, you can be able to continue understanding and caring for your loved one. Here’s how to be patient and show understanding to someone with Dementia:
- Convey feelings of affection with your tone of voice, facial expressions, and touch.
- Acknowledge the patient’s feelings. If they become upset or agitated, avoid arguing with them and instead, change the topic or suggest a distraction.
- Speak slowly and reassuringly to keep your message clear. If the patient doesn’t understand, repeat whatever you said or wait a short while and rephrase.
- Give the patient ample time to respond, while looking for non-verbal clues that reveal unspoken feelings.
- Keep a sense of humour.
- Take a trip down the memory lane
- Give them a choice about things that concern them, but try not to make them too complex.
- Encourage them to look good.
- Don’t infantilize them
You can read more tips on living well with dementia here.