James was 25 when he decided to leave his job in order to care for her mother who was diagnosed with Dementia. Together with his brother, they moved back into their mum’s home so they could always keep an eye on her.
Because of her condition, his mum would sometimes get day and night mix up. There were times when they would see her pack at 3 am for a holiday that isn’t real or she would get dressed at 4 in the morning for a lunch date.
“I remember being so worried that I would tie a string to Mum’s bedroom door and put it on my finger so I’d know if she left her room in the night!”
For the next couple of months, James noticed that his mother started missing appointments because she gets confused with days, dates, and time so he decided to purchase a digital clock that would help her keep track of the date and time.
However, as his mum’s Dementia progressed, leaving his mum for personal errands has been difficult for him.
Aside from setting up a CCTV at home that’s connected to his phone, he made sure their home was safe for her mum to loiter and tinker around in case she decides to cook or eat.
It was also getting a bit hard to reach out and converse to his mum too. James noted that his mum became more agitated, nervous, and would often throw tantrums.
All James would do is to just talk calmly to his mum, ask her what’s wrong, and just show to his mum that he’s going to be there for her no matter what. That would make his mum relax.
Then, in 2011, 5 years after James started taking care of his mum, she died peacefully in their home.
Tips on how to care for your loved ones
Just like James, you too, can help make the life of your loved one easier especially during this trying time of their life.
Have your loved one seek professional help
Before anything else, the first best thing to do is to have your loved one be assessed by a medical professional.
Aside from diagnosis and medications, they can give you, as the carer, expectations and some tips that can help you and your loved one cope with the situation.
There are a lot of support groups in Australia both for you and for Dementia patients. As a carer, surrounding yourself with other carers can help boost your morale and confidence that you can do it - that you can take care of your loved one who has been diagnosed with Dementia.
Also, when our loved ones are surrounded with other patients as well, they will feel at home and they will not feel alone.
However, because of Covid-19, it is best to join online support groups. With the help of technology, reaching out and communicating to people who have the same experience is now a breeze.
Equip your home with daily living aids
Letting them do things on their own such as cooking or gardening can be quite helpful for their mental state. Giving them the freedom to do simple tasks can increase their feeling of independence and at the same time, allow you to do personal tasks as well.
Give them a hobby
Install magnetic locking systems to prevent them from opening cupboards that contain harmful home chemicals such as cleaning supplies.
Using aids for daily living can significantly provide your loved one comfort and ease when performing day-to-day tasks.
Talk to them and use body language
- Be patient and offer support and reassurance. Show compassion in any delays, or provocations so that they will be patient with themselves too. When they’re sharing a story, no matter how many times you’ve heard it, be attentive and listen. When they’re feeling confused or angry, reassure them that everything’s alright.
- Keep it simple. When letting them choose what they want to do or when asking them questions, give them yes or no questions. Avoid conversations that can confuse them even more. Using nonverbal cues and body language is an effective way of communicating with them.
- Be sensitive. As they say, “Think before you speak”. Be cautious on how to approach and talk to them. Avoid provoking them so they won’t start acting aggressive which can cause stress on your part too.
With your will to take care of your loved one, the hundreds of dementia-friendly aids available in the market, and a strong support system, you can do it - just like James.
Support and Resources
Although James is a fictitious name to protect his privacy, his story is definitely one that shows compassion and patience for his mum who lived with Dementia.