This information was first published on ActivCare.com, a residential memory care facility in San Diego, CA.
If you are reading this, chances are you have cared for or are currently caring for someone diagnosed with Dementia, which is a syndrome that falls under the Alzheimer’s umbrella. It typically affects the memory and reasoning centers of the brain, and although there is no cure, there are medications and tools to help relieve the symptoms and in some cases even delay them. Here are a few quick tips from caregivers who have seen this disease up close and personal.
1.) Physical Exercise. This is important for every human being, but especially those suffering from dementia. A natural response to dementia is a decline in physical movement, but encouraging activity can help fight mood swings, depression, increase overall health, and provide a better quality of life for the person. Going for a walk, doing water aerobics, or swimming are all wonderful low-impact activities that many people enjoy.
2.) Reminiscence Therapy. This can be especially useful and calming to someone with dementia. It is simply letting them remember and speak about memories and circumstances that happened in the past. You can provide a listening ear, ask questions, and engage in the conversation, as this can bring about a peace of mind to a person whose mind is often confused or disoriented. A common response to someone who is talking about the past as if it were the present is trying to correct them or make them see logic. As long as it’s calming, let them remain in the past and think upon the fond memories that are there.
3.) Cognitive Activity. Even though the brain isn’t a muscle, doctors encourage people to treat it like one. That means giving it good fuel (healthy foods) and exercising it. Sometimes people with dementia can become withdrawn and isolated because they are embarrassed, ashamed, or can’t ‘keep up’ in normal conversation with others. Everyone needs social interaction and this is a form of cognitive exercise. Some other forms are playing an instrument, doing puzzles, creative writing, or gardening.
Sitting in front of a TV or sleeping most of the day away is not a good response to dementia, even though that may be tempting. Have lots of patience with the person you are caring for, challenging them to do these things but never pushing them too far. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think how you would want to be treated if your mind no longer did what you asked of it. Compassion, love, and patience are essential to good caregiving and by doing so you are truly making a difference in the world.
These statements are not intended to take the place of a doctor’s advice. If you have questions regarding your health of the health of someone else, always contact your doctor.