Thank you for sharing your great tips and lessons learned with DMDEC. As your stories are posted to the blog, any lessons that can be learned from them may also be copied onto this page for quick review. Remember, we aren’t professionals–just regular folks trying to do our best. If you have any doubts about anything you see here, ask a professional!
LESSON LEARNED: Especially in the early stages, if your loved ones still wants to remain active and live independently in their own homes, as much as it is safe for them to do so, encourage and support them. Don’t let their memory loss, transportation challenges, etc., keep them isolated in their homes. For as long as possible, help them to keep their minds active and their spirits up and among the living! There are many resources out there to help you make this happen.
LESSON LEARNED: After your loved ones’ daily needs are met, your number one goal is to continually find ways to stay connected with them. Whether it’s thru an old song, photos, smells, tastes…keeping that special connection going is the greatest gift you can give. At the latest stages, finding that connection can be very difficult. Don’t forget the value of a loving and reassuring touch.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t speak about your loved one’s condition within earshot of them; you never know what they can hear and what they can understand. Trust me! Walk out of the room!
LESSON LEARNED: Family caregivers should make a list of the medications their loved ones are taking and keep that list handy. When my mom had chest pains and the ambulance came, I scrambled to find her medicine bottles when the EMTs asked what she was taking. Now I keep an updated list in the kitchen drawer at all times.
LESSON LEARNED: Keeping a Behavior Log can help caregivers figure out why our loved ones act out at times. If we can detect patterns around their aggressive behaviors, wandering, etc., they may give us clues as to what triggers these behaviors and how to prevent future episodes.
LESSON LEARNED: Persons with dementia find it comforting to know what’s coming. Offer a routine to their day and stick with it. If your loved one is in the early stages, observe their daily routines now. For example, watch how they brush their teeth, how they get dressed, how they get ready for bed, etc. Later on, they will find great comfort in keeping to their routine with your help.
LESSON LEARNED: Activities of daily living that were once easy to do can now be daunting tasks for persons with dementia. To help them, break down the task, such as getting dressed, into small steps and help them through them one button at a time, one step at a time.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t argue with somebody who has dementia. Calmly change the subject. Or indulge them. If they think they have to get back to the farm to get the horses back in the barn, don’t try to reason with them that they don’t have a farm; ask them how many horses they have! It does no harm to play along. Then change the subject when you can.
LESSON LEARNED: While we entrust our doctors to provide the utmost in care, and no doubt they do their best, there is no replacement for those who advocate on behalf of a loved one. Even the docs would agree with this. If that is you, and you have a hunch, follow it. If you are not satisfied with an answer, ask again and then ask someone else.
LESSON LEARNED: I have found that things that are familiar can be very comforting to a person with dementia. A familiar song, a familiar smell like a favorite perfume or the smell of bread baking, old family photos or school year books–can turn a day of frustration and confusion into a calmer, happier day.
LESSON LEARNED: If your loved one with dementia suddenly gets markedly worse, it is possible that there is another reason for it, such as a urinary tract infectionn, dehydration, etc.
LESSON LEARNED: Changes that happen very suddenly may be not only urinary tract infections but also signs of dehydration! Also many people think it is a waste of time visiting someone with dementia. Remember…that person lives in the moment..Each moment we give them is a moment of happiness! Even if they don’t remember later, you gave them a moment at the time you were there…what a gift for them! and for you…
LESSON LEARNED: A great idea was printed in the Chicago Tribune’s Ask Amy column. DMDEC is passing it along here: be sure that your senior parent or loved one keeps all PIN numbers in a single safe place. Should their memory start to fade, not knowing the PIN numbers for accounts they’ve opened, recurring charges, etc., could be a huge problem for caregivers.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t sit around and seethe because friends or relatives aren’t volunteering to assist you. ASK FOR HELP! And be specific. Ask someone to bring over lunch once a week so you can leave the house. Assign someone shopping duty. Ask a friend to bring over a movie or music and spend an hour or two once a week visiting. Most people want to help–they just don’t know how!