Caring for Dementia: What to Expect
Learning that a loved one has dementia can be overwhelming. Dementia affects how a person functions and communicates. The person’s daily needs, abilities, and behavior will change over time.
And as a caregiver, you’ll need support. As dementia symptoms get worse, the care you provide will change. There are many things to plan for and problems to tackle. Knowing what to expect can make it easier to plan ahead.
Helping with daily life
People with dementia have trouble with daily tasks and self-care. They may not remember to eat or bathe. They will need routines, reminders, and tools to help them get through daily tasks. They may need help preparing food and eating it. They may need help getting out of the house for exercise and to see friends and family. They may also need help with daily grooming, dressing, and using the toilet.
Learning new ways to communicate
Dementia makes it hard for people to remember things and think clearly. It can also make it harder for people to speak their minds. Learn the best ways to communicate in Caring for Dementia: Communicating with Your Loved One.
Setting up a support network
A support network is an important part of coping with illness. As a caregiver, you may go through a full range of emotions. They may range from joy all the way to anger, sadness, and fear. As a caregiver, you are at a higher risk for anxiety and depression. Reach out to family members, friends, or faith-based organizations for help. You can also look into local or online caregiver support groups. VA’s Caregiver Support Program can link you to resources and to other caregivers. Ask your health care provider to link you to the Caregiver Support Coordinator at your facility.
You can learn more about this topic in the National Institute on Aging’s sheet, Caring for Yourself. You can also visit the VA’s website for Caregivers of Veterans at www.caregiver.va.gov.
Coping with problem behaviors
A person with dementia will often have behaviors such as agitation and aggression. He or she may wander off and get lost, and like to hide things. And he or she may eat or drink unsafe things. Or the person may refuse to eat or drink. All these behaviors can make caregiving a challenge.
Learn more about this topic in Managing Personality and Behavior Changes on the National Institute on Aging’s website.
Securing safety at home and beyond
A person with dementia is more at risk for safety issues at home and beyond. These can include accidents, falls, burns, and poisoning.
Learn prevention and tips for safety in Caring for Dementia: Safety Checklists.
Arranging help and care services
What will be the best type of living arrangement for your loved one over time? You may need to find part-time help in the home. Or you may want to choose a full-time care facility, such as a nursing home.
You can learn more about making decisions about long-term care services with the VA’s Shared Decision Making tools.
Making Advance Care plans
You may need to help the person with dementia do advance care planning. This means making decisions about one’s own future medical care. The person can put together a group of legal documents called an advance directive or living will.
You can learn more about advance care planning in Caring for Dementia: Advance Care Planning.
Planning for legal and financial issues
It’s important to plan ahead for financial issues. As symptoms of dementia get worse, a person will be less able to understand complex information. They will also be less able to make decisions and sign documents.
You can learn more about legal and financial planning in Caring for Dementia: Legal and Financial Planning.