Caring For Loved Ones With Dementia And Their Caregivers

With nearly 7 million Americans affected by Alzheimer’s today (a number projected to grow to 13 million by 2050, according to The Alzheimer’s Association), and household names like Bruce Willis and Wendy Williams living with frontotemporal dementia, the need to care for loved ones with memory loss and their caregivers is growing.

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If you use dementia, memory loss, and Alzheimer’s interchangeably, you’re not alone. While dementia is the general inability to remember, think, or make decisions, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. Outside of dementia caused by a reversible, underlying condition like thyroid hormone imbalance or vitamin deficiency, most types of dementia don’t currently have a cure. Treatments for dementia focus on protecting the brain and managing symptoms.

Dementias typically present in older adults with women and Black and Hispanic populations at highest risk. Smoking, heart disease, and diabetes also have possible connections to diseases like Alzehimer’s. Ensuring overall health through nutrition, exercise, and maintaining social connections lowers risks associated with dementia.

With the average Alzheimer’s patient living 4-8 years (and some living as long as 20 years), caregiving becomes a full time job for many of the 11 million Americans providing unpaid care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The Daily Impact

Aging adults experience occasional lapses in memory. Misplacing keys, forgetting an acquaintance’s name, or making a late bill payment aren’t unusual. With dementia, these occurrences increase in frequency and severity and impact other parts of life. Becoming socially isolated, failing to maintain good hygiene, and getting lost in familiar places are some of the many signs that a loved one is progressing beyond typical age-related memory changes.

Trouble concentrating, irritability, changes in sleep patterns and sundowning, along with no longer enjoying beloved hobbies, can point to dementia. Regardless of how dementia presents, it adds a layer of complexity and increased stress for caregivers of aging loved ones. The pressure caregivers feel is compounded by financial concerns for many, and the complicated feelings some caregivers have around leaving jobs and careers to provide care full time. 

What Matters for Caregivers and Loved Ones With Dementia

No matter the diagnosis, memory loss brings challenges for the people experiencing it and those who love them and care for them. When memory loss is progressive and irreversible, what makes a difference? How can caregivers be supported when caregiving becomes an around-the-clock job?

Making a Difference for Loved Ones

Establishing routines helps people with dementia and caregivers. Predictable routines, plenty of time for rest, and memory-supporting activities like crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and reading can benefit aging loved ones in earlier stages of memory loss. Preserving memories through meaningful activities brings benefits in early stages and as their disease progresses, too. Paging through photo albums or preparing favorite meals together are sustainable, low cost ideas. Keeping in mind to meet loved ones at their ability level and in ways that feel meaningful to them, family and friends can spend time talking about cherished memories and share stories. This provides both the opportunity to preserve memories and engage in social connection.

Music, art, and sensory stimulation can support loved ones with dementia and also provide opportunities for connection when incorporated into daily routines. Enjoying music, art, and nature together with caregivers benefits both loved ones and their caregivers as well as their shared relationship.

Making a Difference For Caregivers

Caregivers play an essential role in supporting individuals with memory loss. From providing physical care to emotional support and social engagement, caregivers are tasked with it all. Overwhelmed and stressed caregivers without time to care for themselves are less capable of providing the care they want to provide to loved ones – and they’re at a higher risk for their own adverse health events. 

Family and friends of caregivers can help them care for their own physical and emotional well being by ensuring regular respite – breaks from caregiving duties. Rotating family caregivers, hiring home health aides, or engaging with adult day service providers are options that give primary caregivers a break. During earlier stages of dementia, establishing routines and planning for the future may reduce the stress and work of caring for a person who, in the years to come, will be unable to legally make decisions for themselves. Estate planning and establishing helpful documents (like a power of attorney and a living will) smooth the transition for caregivers.

In-person and virtual caregiver support groups are beneficial for many caregivers who often feel isolated in their roles and seek understanding from others sharing their experiences. These groups bring experience, resources, and community together for caregivers, and serve as a nexus for information and social connection. The Alzheimer’s Association in partnership with AARP provides a robust listing of virtual and in-person groups.

How The Restoracy Supports Memory Care

Aging adults with memory care needs deserve the highest quality of life, joy, and engagement. Preserving memories and family relationships while providing expert nursing care, nutritional support, and an engaging community are essential parts of how the Restoracy reimagines senior care. 

Only 12 residents call our cozy, home-like memory care unit home. With private rooms, 24/7 care and monitoring, and a team dedicated to welcoming residents and inviting families to visit as often as they’d like, your loved one is in the most caring hands.

Tour our Carmel location and get your questions answered. We look forward to meeting you.

 

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