20 tips for caregivers of people living with dementia

Very few people outside of the healthcare industry would have answered “caregiver,” when asked their dream career. It isn’t an option on the recommended career list or a career openly spoken about. Yet most caregivers serve out of love and respect. Few realize just how stressful caregiving is over time. Often caregivers of people with dementia, often called the invisible second patients, are critical to the quality of life of the care recipients and its important that they care for themselves too. One of the major contributing factors to caregiver stress is not understanding how to manage someone living with dementia; we know how challenging and frustrating it can be.

Marike Coetzee, Occupational Therapist at Livewell Villages, Somerset West, shares her top 20 tips for caregivers.

  1. Refrain from correcting the person when they’re telling a story incorrectly or repeatedly asking the same questions.
  2. Re-assure the person with dementia that he or she is safe.
  3. Talk about things from their past that have meaning to them.
  4. Look at old photos together.
  5. Music is a great way to calm someone living with dementia. Use music that is known to them.
  6. Use a fixed routine. Eat, shower and sleep, etc. at specific times.
  7. Aromatherapy works wonders. Lavender can help calm them and also help with sleep, lowering frustration levels, etc.
  8. Hugs can help calm down those living with dementia and make them feel safe.
  9. Be aware of medication interaction or urinary tract infections, which can lead to symptoms getting worse.
  10. Get their attention before talking to them.
  11. Keep sentences short and clear so that they are easier to understand.
  12. Break down activities/tasks in shorter and simpler steps. Preferably one-step instructions.
  13. What works one day may not work the next day. Try different methods for tasks.
  14. When they become anxious, draw attention to something else, such as a conversation about another topic.
  15. Keep a sense of humor.
  16. Apply self-care to prevent carer fatigue & burnout.
  17. Try to understand the cause of challenging behavior such as frustration, aggression, anxiety, etc.
  18. Get involved in decisions as far as possible.
  19. Get a support base. We encourage you to join our Dementia Conversations.
  20. Make use of the resources available. Livewell Villages offers short term dementia day and holiday care services.

We hope these tips help you on your caregiving journey.

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Arrive as family, live with dignity and purpose.

Since 2011, the Livewell Group has been at the forefront of dementia and Alzheimer’s care in South Africa. We are motivated by a personal and heartfelt concern for the dignity and care of our elders and our efforts continue to be encouraged by the strong market need for specialised individual care.

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