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Helping a Loved One with Dementia Adjust to a New Caregiver

It doesn’t matter what we call it, it is painful and tough

There are lots of terms out there for “dementia” such as “memory loss” or “cognitive impairment” or “mild cognitive impairment” or “cognitive decline. “ And diagnoses that bring about brain disease such as Alzheimer’s add to the complicated terminology because our loved ones are lumped into “stages.”  At the end of the day, hearing a diagnosis of dementia is brutal and devastating and at a point, it might not matter what it is called by the medical community. The person diagnosed suffers, the family suffers and there is no stopping the decline.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Statistics 

The statistics are staggering. According to the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Every 67 seconds, someone in the U.S. will develop Alzheimer’s
  • 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia
  • In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid are valued at more than $220 billion
  • Women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s epidemic:  more than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are women and there are 2.5 times more women than men providing intensive, on-duty care 24 hours a day for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

At Home Care Assistance of Annapolis, when we are contacted by families caring for a loved one with dementia, they are usually in crisis. Their loved one is experiencing anger, sadness, paranoia, confusion and fear that may result in defiance, aggression or oppositional behavior. The family is grieving the loss of the person they once knew and desperate to have some type of peace for everyone. Perhaps the most tragic of cases are the seniors we meet who are aware of their diagnosis and inevitable decline and terrified of the future. It is heartbreaking.

Caregiver Training in Dementia Care is Critical

Helping a loved one with dementia adjust to a new caregiver becomes more challenging as their condition advances. While it is normal for all senior adults to be apprehensive about having a new caregiver, dementia patients can be especially susceptible to the effects of having a change in their care plan. Fortunately, this transition can be eased by implementing the following strategies for ensuring a loved one is comfortable with their new caregiver.

Maintain a Normal Routine

Dementia patients do not adjust well to sudden disruptions in routine.  If a change in schedule is required, try to do it before introducing a new caregiver. This will help to decrease problems associated with confusion and agitation. When leaving a loved one with a caregiver for long-term care, make sure the caregiver understands specific aspects of the routine that can soothe the patient such as playing a certain song to signal a bedtime routine. It is important to remember that aggressive behavior is not being done on purpose by your loved one. Rather, it is being triggered by physical or mental discomfort or fear of the unfamiliar.

Home Care Assistance of Annapolis caregivers are trained to identify the underlying cause of the aggression and to shift the focus to something else, while speaking in a calm, reassuring manner.  But there is no “cookie cutter” approach when dealing with human beings with varied needs, desires and experiences. And the dignity of the person is paramount at all times. For example, in some cases, our clients with dementia don’t like loud voices.  Others become agitated when left alone or under-stimulated.  Sometimes our clients with dementia express a desire to “go home.”   Our caregivers are trained to provide reassurance with compassion and kindness.  Learn more about highly trained, compassionate dementia caregivers in Annapolis who can provide care for your loved one in the comfort of their own home, in familiar surroundings.

Keep a Positive Attitude

Dementia patients rely on their loved ones and caregivers to provide clues as to how they should react to changes in their environment. Try to avoid relaying messages of guilt or concern. Instead, talk to your loved one in a positive manner that reflects trust in their caregiver. If they become agitated, simply continue speaking in a calm voice while making the introduction to the caregiver. When my 82 year old Mother was experiencing temporary dementia due to medication side effects, she became anxious and frightened. We came up with a mantra and I would repeat it to her as often as needed:  “You are safe; you are loved; we will get through this.”

Take a Gradual Approach

If your loved one is resistant to the idea of a new caregiver, it may be helpful to introduce them gradually. As an experienced home care agency in Annapolis, we’ve found that an easy way to do this is by saying that a friend will be coming over for a visit. Doing this for short periods of time will allow your loved one to adjust slowly until they are comfortable with longer periods of care. With a little patience and time, the senior adult will learn to trust and accept their new caregiver while benefiting from their guidance and care.

Help your aging parent or loved one adjust to a new caregiver from Home Care Assistance. All of our caregivers are Certified Nursing Assistances (CNAs) who are licensed and have received extensive training in elder care, ensuring they provide the highest level of dementia care for seniors in Annapolis. We have a full-time nurse on staff with experience in dementia care who can assist families with tough or sensitive situations. Want to learn more?Please call us at 443-302-2771 to speak with a Care Manager and schedule a free in-home assessment.