Tips for caregivers of those with Alzheimer's and dementia

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Providing care to loved ones with dementia can be challenging, and often isolating, for family caregivers. There are several techniques that reduce difficult behaviors and result in better days for family caregivers and their loved ones.

You might be frustrated and unsure of how to handle the day-to-day challenges of caring for someone with dementia. We encourage you to try some of our most effective dementia care tips.

Research shows a daily routine allows people with dementia to function better, experience better moods and less anxiety. Develop a sense of structure by maintaining consistent wake, sleep and meal times.

Communicate the daily routine and what to expect next, even if they might not completely understand.

Writing up a schedule and placing it in a highly visible place might give dementia sufferers an even greater sense of reassurance.

Maintaining hydration is critical to good health for both you and your loved one. Dehydration can cause medical destabilization, confusion and agitation, and it can promote infection.

Keeping plenty of water bottles on hand might help make it easier to promote hydration.

Make it a social activity by drinking water at the same time and tracking how much water you both drink each day, shooting for the recommended amount.

Don't argue with people with dementia when something they say is obviously incorrect. Arguing might make them feel angry and that you do not respect them.

Instead of arguing, join them in their personal reality when talking about the present or the past. This might help you to keep the connection and familial bond strong.

Make increasing their positive feelings a daily goal. This can be achieved by engaging them in activities they enjoy.

By accommodating their personal preferences, you'll have better results and help them experience positive feelings.

Family tensions can deeply affect people with dementia and can cause difficult behavior.

Be sensitive to family dynamics and recognize that tension and negative feelings can impact acceptance of care.

Remember the adage "your actions speak louder than words." With dementia, nonverbal skills become more important as their verbal skills start to fail.

Other tips include: keep it simple; ask one question at a time; use yes-no questions; simplify but don't eliminate choices; and avoid asking questions that require elaborate answers.

Avoid using words and phrases such as "don't," "you can't" and "I told you."

You can't do it alone.

Often, as a family caregiver, feelings of being overwhelmed make caregiving an emotional experience. It is important to remember that as a caregiver you need not, nor should you try to, travel this road alone.

Seek help and avoid burnout.

James Wogsland, MBA and Certified Senior Advisor, is co-owner of ComForCare Home Care, and Chairman of the Beaufort County Walk to End Alzheimer's. JWogsland@ComForCare.com

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