Getting the news that a senior family member has been diagnosed with dementia is life-changing. Thinking through the many different facets and factors associated with the disease as well as its impact, both presently and in the future, may be overwhelming.
In this three-part series, we’ll examine the early, middle and later stages of dementia. Learn about the type of care necessary during each stage, what family caregivers can expect, and how Hearts at Home In-Home Care can help.
Middle Stage Dementia Caregiving
Middle stage dementia symptoms occur gradually, and can even be unnoticeable at first. Eventually, a senior in this stage will start to experience increasing challenges with daily tasks, such as getting dressed. It is essential for family caregivers to continue to foster a feeling of independence, allowing the senior loved one to complete these tasks at his/her own pace for as long as possible (and as long as it’s safe to do so). This requires flexibility, patience, and adaptability.
It will also become necessary to invest additional time in providing care, and to formulate innovative techniques and ways to decrease frustration – for your loved one as well as yourself. Self-care becomes extremely important in the middle stage of dementia in order to help caregivers manage stress.
Here is what you may expect to experience in this stage:
- Repetitive behaviors
- Aggressive outbursts (physical and/or verbal)
Ways You Can Help
Keeping a relaxed demeanor is important. Never argue or try to reason with a loved one in the middle stage of dementia. In a calm and soothing tone, recognize the feeling behind the behavior and give suggestions that can help. For instance: “Mom, I can see you’re feeling angry about misplacing your favorite shirt. It’s probably in the washing machine. This violet one looks pretty on you; do you want to wear it today?”
Realize that the words and actions being expressed are not a reflection of you personally, but merely part of the normal development of dementia. Often, there is a fundamental emotion, such as fear, exhaustion, or hunger, driving the behavior. Attempt to identify the primary cause and address that.
- Losing train of thought
- Forgetting a word
- Repeating questions or statements
- Using more non-verbal communication
Ways You Can Help
Accept whatever form of communication works well for the older adult, without trying to correct her or him. Adjust your communication technique to make it easier for the senior to understand and respond to you. For instance, instead of asking open-ended questions (“What would you like for dinner today?”) offer an option between just two choices (“Would you like chicken or steak for dinner today?”). Speak in a clear, gentle tone, and permit the senior ample time to respond without jumping in and providing the answer yourself.
- Driving concerns
In this stage of the disease, paying closer attention to safety issues becomes crucial. Driving should cease – something that’s usually challenging for seniors to accept. If at all possible, include the older adult in making this decision. If not, a note from the doctor prohibiting driving is often the most effective way to gain his / her consent. In the event the older adult is insistent about continuing to drive, you might have to take away keys, or replace his or her set of keys with nonworking ones.
Likewise, wandering and sundowning become concerning and problematic for family caregivers to manage independently. Partnering with an established and reliable care provider with experience in dementia care, like Hearts at Home In-Home Care, is an ideal solution. Our caregivers can take the night shift, making certain seniors are safe and distracted with interesting activities when not able to sleep – allowing family caregivers to get the rest they require.