Dementia is a chronic condition that can become common in older people, although it is sadly possible to get it in younger years with early onset dementia. Regardless of when it starts to occur, the effects can be devastating. Many people with dementia find that their memory and cognitive functions get progressively worse to the point where they struggle to remember everyday facts such as the names and birthdays of relatives or where they put their house keys. In the early stages of dementia, the condition can often be overlooked, as occasional forgetfulness is common at any age.
However, as the condition progresses, the person may need a range of professional help to allow them to continue to live a happy and fulfilling life. If you have a close friend or relative with dementia, it is natural to want to offer your assistance. In this article, three top tips are discussed that can allow you to offer meaningful assistance to your loved ones who have the condition.
Minimize the effects of “sundowning”
Sundowning is a symptom that affects many people who have dementia in the mid to late stages of the condition. In brief, it is when a person with dementia begins to feel irritable, restless or even agitated in the later part of the day, and it can result in challenging behavior being displayed when caregivers are trying to assist the person. The causes of sundowning are still not fully understood, but it is thought to be triggered by changes in the brain chemistry that occur because of dementia. Thankfully, the effects of sundowning can be minimized by regulating the person’s sleeping patterns, sticking to a daily routine that does not result in exhaustion, and the use of light therapies to improve the person’s mood. If your loved one shows signs of sundowning, it is wise to consult a doctor for advice and additional strategies to manage the symptoms.
Consider music therapies
Many people with dementia start to struggle with communication in the mid to later stages of the condition and may suffer from reduced mood and irritability. Music therapy is a technique that has been shown to offer improvements in these situations for dementia sufferers. For people who struggle to communicate effectively due to dementia, music and dancing can provide an alternative means of self-expression. In addition, the enjoyment that comes from listening to favorite tracks can dramatically improve the mood of patients and may mean there is less need to take medication to make them feel better.
Stay in contact
As a final top tip, it is of paramount importance that you stay in regular contact with loved ones who have dementia. It can be challenging to know how to treat them, and may be uncomfortable to visit if they are showing signs of irritability or aggression on a regular basis. However, stopping contact and visits will often compound the problems that they face as they may begin to feel neglected or isolated from other family members. Recognize that it is the condition causing the challenging behavior, not the person, and try and remain calm and positive when talking to them.