Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Health

Taking charge in a dementia household


Published:

There will be many situations when a caregiver must decide what role to play. It can become awkward being the guardian, especially when one is caring for a parent. But that's the role you must assume. I was my father's caregiver for a decade and experienced times when I felt uneasy using a voice of authority toward him. I'm not speaking about scolding him, just using a voice of stern reason.

This behavior triumphs over the rule I was taught from a young age - "Respect your elders!" Dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia patients who have reached a senior status necessitates that you assume the right to disregard that golden etiquette mandate.

Prepare for your time to be monopolized. One reason you need to be constantly by your loved one's side is that he or she is no longer able to make adult decisions; therefore, it is acceptable using a parental voice - within reason.

Safety is a top priority. If using a voice of authority redirects a patient from wandering out the front door without resulting in an anxiety attack, you did the right thing.

Usually the primary caregiver runs the whole household, becoming a business manager as well. When you take on the responsibilities as if you were running a business, it is not a bad way to go about things. Learn to write everything down and make a schedule devoting certain times to care for unavoidable tasks. If you're paying household bills, electronic checking is a blessing. Automatic payments might keep you from sitting in the dark. The electric company doesn't care that you've been sitting by your loved one's side 24 hours a day and that's why you forgot to mail a check.

According to research, there are two kinds of caregivers: the one that can accept the situation and the kind that has trouble adapting. Surveys show that non-adapters deal with patients that experience a higher level of hyperactivity. I've always believed dementia patients feed off their caregivers' emotions. The smoother the household runs, the easier it will be to keep up a positive, calm demeanor.

Even so, there'll always be moments when everything feels like it's falling apart.

Listen to your inner voice of authority and brush those moments aside. Cling to the simplicities; things have a way of sorting themselves out.

As primary caregivers, we become our patients' world, their security blanket, a lifeline. Even if we're sitting right next to them we should make the extra effort to reach out and hold their hand. Even placing our hand on their shoulder, reassuring them that we are there, can make a world of difference.

Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at us41books@bellsouth .net. His newly released book "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," "While I Still Can" and the expanded edition of "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness" can be found at www.common sensecaregiving.com.

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