Ten ways to cope with dementia as a family

Every three seconds someone in the world develops dementia.

A diagnosis of dementia is a daunting experience which can test even the strongest family. What stage is it at and how fast will it progress? How will it impact me, mum or dad? Will it mean going straight into a care home? You’ll no doubt have all of these questions spinning around in your head but rest assured; there is help out there.

Here is some advice around how to cope with dementia as a family at what is, no doubt, an extremely difficult and emotional time.

  • Get an accurate diagnosis: This is essential so that you understand what it is you are dealing with and what to expect
  • Communicate regularly: Keeping family members updated and informed of all the changes in a loved one’s condition can help alleviate confusion and hard feelings.
  • Consult with professionals: A family meeting with a professional such as a GP may be needed to ensure that everyone shares the same information and gets the resources they need. The main carer sometimes unwittingly becomes the keeper of the information because they are the ones dealing with the situation.
  • Learn skills and techniques: The behavioural changes that come with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can be difficult to manage. The resources of the Home Instead CARE programme can help.
  • Expect change and learn to manage it: Dementias are ever-changing conditions. Family carers can find solace and support by sharing with others who are facing similar challenges. Local support groups and care professionals can help.
  • Ask for help if you’re the primary carer: Perhaps you’re the only one of your family/siblings living locally to your parent. Or maybe you’re the oldest child and the one expected to care for everyone. Maybe you’re a spouse. Whatever the circumstance, carers of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias shouldn’t try to cope alone.
  • Tune into the main carers needs: If you’re not the main family carer, be attentive to the person who is. Otherwise, resentment can fester. Review regularly what needs to be done and how the primary carer can get some respite.
  • Assign tasks: Even family members who live out of town can do things to help. Make a list of all that needs to be done and ask people to take part in tasks. Money management is among things that can be done remotely.
  • Consider the family legacy: What will the family dynamic be after your senior loved one is gone? What do you want the legacy of this experience to be? What kind of relationships do you want with your siblings? Make sure the stress of being a carer doesn’t damage your relationships with loved ones.
  • Tap into resources: Families can’t have too much information when it comes to trying to manage the potential behavioural changes of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Life Life Well

Home Instead runs Family Dementia Workshops which are free to attend and arm family carers with tips for dealing with dementia.