Caring for Someone with Dementia

Caring for a person living with Dementia is challenging and emotional for families and caregivers. As the person in your care begins to experience early onset of dementia, you’ll notice changes in their memory and/or behaviour that can be very confusing and frustrating.

A good place to start unravelling the confusion is by getting a formal diagnosis from your doctor. It’s surprising how many people don’t do this in the early stages but those that do, have more time to come to terms with the disease and prepare themselves and their loved ones as best they can.

Your doctor will also be able to provide you with useful resources to help you understand the changes your loved is going through and how to manage the symptoms. They will look at treatment options, such as medication, and discuss with the family what to expect as the condition progresses.

  • How is the person communicating?
  • Are they confused or disorientated?
  • Are they more anxious than normal?
  • Can they no longer carry out simple tasks?
  • Can they dress themselves?
  • Do they go to the toilet when they need to?
  • Do they do any of the things they used to enjoy?

Because dementia is a degenerative condition, the time will come when the person you are caring for can no longer make sound decisions. It is important talk to them about legal, financial and medical planning while they still have the ability to understand what is going to happen and can give their consent. A lawyer can help and you may need to consider changes regarding power of attorney (POA) and a living will.

A lawyer may advise that you put all the assets into the name of the spouse without dementia as soon as possible. In South Africa there’s currently no enduring POA – POA becomes invalid when the person who has given it no longer understands what it means. Often the result is that the estate of the person is placed under curatorship, disempowering the spouse (or family member) without Dementia.

Lastly, when working with your doctor and care agency to develop an effective care plan, it is important to factor in your own needs as someone caring for a person living with Dementia. It is not uncommon to feel alone and that you have nowhere to turn to for support. Tap into the resources available for emotional support such as your social network, support groups, counselling from your religious or spiritual leader and family therapy.

As the disease progresses new challenges will emerge but it is important to deal with these one step at a time. If you need help caring for someone living with Dementia or even a break, give us a call to chat to one of our qualified carers about your needs and how we can help.