Being a caregiver for a loved one with dementia can be a difficult, complex, frustrating experience at times, especially for new caregivers. Working to avoid some of the common dementia caregiver mistakes can be a huge help, potentially saving you time, energy and resources, while enabling you to provide better care.
There are all kinds of mistakes a dementia caregiver can make, but some are fairly common. So first, before fine-tuning your loved one’s personal care plan, make sure you’ve already covering the following bases, sidestepping the following frequent caregiving errors:
Being In Denial
It’s not easy to accept that your loved one has dementia. In many cases, caregivers, family members and friends may be in denial about the severity of the affected person’s condition. They may ignore and/or dismiss that person’s symptoms. This is not a helpful approach to the situation.
In addition to impairing your own mental and emotional adjustment to your loved one’s needs, denying their symptoms may lead to a delay in them obtaining medical attention. This can have far-reaching health implications, since generally speaking, the sooner one receives medical care, the better.
Not Getting Answers
Caring for a loved one with dementia has many moving parts, and the more information you have, the better equipped you will be. Don’t dive into the role of caregiver without thoroughly investigating all that it entails, especially the common dementia caregiver mistakes. Most importantly, ask questions…lots of them!
You will encounter numerous healthcare professionals along the way. Ask all the questions you can. The same applies for lawyers, financial planners, accountants, counselors and insurers; don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as needed until you have a firm grasp on all the facts.
Mentioning Problematic Topics
It’s a common reaction to ask someone if they remember something, but this can be extremely frustrating and/or embarrassing for dementia patients. Refrain from asking who or what they remember, as trivial and/or recent as it may be.
Also, be extra sensitive when it comes to bringing up that someone is dead. If the person in question is a family member or friend of the person you care for, your loved one may still believe that person is alive. Reminding them of that person’s death may cause your loved one to feel the pain of their loss all over again, as if it was the first time.
There may be other “trigger” topics specific to your loved one, which will upset them, possibly to exaggerated levels. Be mindful of these topics and avoid them wherever possible.
There’s no point in contradicting or arguing with a person suffering from dementia, regardless of how frustrated you may be at times. There will be many occasions where the person you are caring for says something that’s incorrect or doesn’t make sense; learn to let these instances go, in the interest of not agitating your loved one or provoking an even larger argument.
The best solution in this situation is to simply agree with your loved one, then change the subject. You’ve just saved yourself a lot of tension and avoided one of the classic dementia caregiver mistakes, allowing you to enjoy your time with your loved one, instead.
Not Taking Care of Yourself
Too many caregivers spend so much time and energy caring for their loved one, they forget (or don’t have the time) to make sure their own needs are being met. This is another one of the common dementia caregiver mistakes. While it’s noble to put your loved one first, you won’t be able to properly care for them over the long-term if you’re driving yourself toward burnout. Make sure you make time for your own rest and relaxation.
There are many ways of freeing up some spare time. Look into senior day programs, even if used sporadically, where your loved one can leave the home for stimulation, while you get some rest. Investigate respite/residential services, which can afford you a longer break. You may also want to research home health aides, who are another great resource for caregivers in need of added support.
Delaying Nursing Home Care
There will come a point when you are no longer capable of caring for your loved on your own. As it hard as it might be, when that time comes you will need to decide if placing your loved one in a nursing home is the best solution. There’s no shame in handing your day-to-day responsibilities over to a staff of trained professionals.
In the latter stages of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s, your loved one will require nearly constant care and attention. A nursing home can provide 24-7 care by nurses and aids, with a physician on call, as well professionals such as cooks, dietitians, activity directors, counselors and more. Remember, you’re not quitting or giving up; you’re transitioning your loved into the next stage of their care.