Taking care of your loved ones with dementia can be challenging and emotionally demanding sometimes, as it comes with various responsibilities. Although it can be rewarding most of the time, non-professionals might not have the knowledge to ensure they take the right steps. This can affect a caregiver’s physical and mental health. Research has found that depression is common among caregivers, as caregiving for an individual with dementia can be challenging and stressful.
If you want to provide your loved one with the highest level of care, it’s important to promote independence and reduce their likelihood of relying on you for daily activities. Not only will this reduce your burden, but it will significantly enhance the well-being and quality of life of those living with this condition. Consider the following strategies to promote independence and dignity in dementia care.
Cognitive impairments can influence an individual’s thinking process. But it can be helpful to involve them in decision-making whenever possible.
Take the time to communicate with your loved one to make their opinions feel valued, especially when making any significant decision. Encourage them to express their preferences, involve them in discussions about their care, and provide choices whenever feasible. This empowers them and helps them maintain a sense of control and dignity.
Encouraging decision-making can also contribute to their cognitive function. Engaging their cognitive abilities through decision-making exercises can help stimulate their minds, keeping their mental faculties active and potentially slowing down cognitive decline.
Adapt the Environment
The environment your loved one lives in can impact their overall health and quality of life. They consistently need to rely on someone, and it can be challenging for them to maintain independence or dignity.
Modifying the physical environment can significantly enhance independence for individuals with dementia. Simplify the layout of their living space, ensure good lighting, use contrasting colors to make objects more visible, and remove any unnecessary clutter. You can also enhance safety at home by installing supportive equipment wherever possible. For example, handrails and walk-in showers are great additions to the bathroom to promote independence. These simple changes can make it easier for your loved one to navigate their surroundings and carry out daily activities independently.
Seek Professional Help
One of the best ways to promote independence in dementia care is by seeking professional support in different capacities. Firstly, professionals, such as geriatric specialists or dementia care experts, possess specialized knowledge and experience in managing the challenges associated with dementia. They typically go through extensive education and training to understand the best ways to help individuals with dementia.
Another way to seek professional help is by moving your loved one into a reputable dementia care home like Sagecare, as their fully trained registered nurses can offer specialized care based on individual needs. The private nursing home’s high staffing-to-resident ratio allows them to provide specialized care for each resident in a home-like setting. They will take the time to understand your loved one’s unique needs and look for ways to promote independence and help them lead a better quality of life.
One of the primary reasons to seek professional help is that they bring an objective perspective to the situation. As family members, we may have deep emotional ties and personal biases that can cloud our judgment or hinder our ability to provide the best care. Professionals can offer an unbiased assessment of your loved one’s condition, identify their strengths and limitations, and develop personalized strategies to promote independence and dignity.
Engage in Supportive Communication
Individuals with dementia often have trouble collecting their thoughts and expressing their feelings with words. According to a study, “people with dementia show lower results in the area of understanding and verbal expression, repetition, reading and writing.”
Although this is common, an individual’s changes in the ability to communicate can vary depending on the dementia stage and type of dementia. If your loved one struggles to communicate, it’s important to implement effective communication strategies to help them express their feelings. The last thing you should do is get frustrated if they cannot express their thoughts or understand what you are saying.
Use clear and straightforward language, speak slowly, and give individuals enough time to process information and respond. Be patient, listen attentively, and show empathy. These actions can help individuals feel valued and understood, fostering a sense of dignity and self-worth.
Use Assistive Technology
Technology has come a long way and can play a pivotal role in dementia care. Utilizing assistive technology can be a game-changer in supporting independence for individuals with dementia. Devices such as medication reminders, GPS trackers, and automated lighting systems can help individuals maintain their daily routines and navigate their environment safely. Assistive technology empowers individuals and gives them a sense of security while promoting their independence.
Avoid overly complicated devices or programs that are difficult to navigate when choosing assistive technology. Try to find simple technology that your loved one can easily understand and get used to. However, an individual’s ability to use assistive technology can vary depending on their skills and dementia stage. A technology that works for one person with dementia may not work for another.
Respect Privacy and Personal Space
Your loved one is already going through many changes, and they feel like they have lost control, independence, or respect from others. It’s important for you to take measures to respect their privacy and personal space. Take the time to understand what changes might affect their lives and how other people’s approaches may affect them.
Knock on doors before entering, obtain consent before providing personal care, and maintain confidentiality. These actions demonstrate respect for their autonomy and promote a sense of dignity and self-respect.
It’s also important to communicate clearly and calmly using simple and clear language when communicating with individuals with dementia. Speak slowly, use a calm tone, and give them time to process and respond to your questions or requests. When needed, use non-verbal cues, and pay attention to body language. If they seem uncomfortable or exhibit signs of distress, give them some space, and try to identify the cause of their discomfort instead of immediately getting involved.