Being the caregiver for a loved one suffering with dementia is challenging. Research shows that often the most difficult part of dementia for caregivers to manage are the personality changes associated with the disease. Oftentimes dementia causes individuals to become aggressive, or restless. Often this agitation is due to not being able to express themselves or communicate fully. Many individuals with dementia experience mood changes that include anxiety, depression as well as confusion, sleeplessness and even hallucinations.
When a loved one with dementia begins to wander the challenge increases. The caregiver and the team caring for the individual with dementia may try to figure out reasons for the wandering. Often the individual with dementia is wandering from feelings of nervousness in certain places or seeking something. The individual may think it's time to go to work or wants to go to the grocery store and gets lost. To help prevent wandering, try to identify the time of day that wandering seems to be occurring. Plan activities that will keep your loved one with dementia engaged during these times. Supervision is the best way to avoid wandering. Specialized alarms and locks may also assist. Camouflaging doors with curtains or a large sign that reads "STOP" or "DO NOT ENTER" may help. It's important to hide car keys, shoes, coats, hats and anything that might signal leaving the area. It is very important to form a safe zone for your loved one with dementia. Help the local police, neighbors and anyone who might know your loved one understand that if they see your loved one wandering they need to contact you. Consider enrolling your loved one in a safe-return program or have your loved one wear a gps or tracking device. It's important that the team working with you be involved in creating a safety plan. Include other family members and medical doctors if you can.
It is so difficult for caregivers to watch loved ones decline and handling the stress and emotional toll on the caregiver is a job unto itself. If you are or know a caregiver, please encourage them to ask for help. Turn to other family members, friends, even agencies that are set up for respite care for periods where the caregiver can tend to some of their own personal needs. Perhaps take a brief vacation, have lunch with friends, hire someone to manage bills and finances. Perhaps someone else can help manage and administer medications or make doctor's appointments. Anything that allows the caregiver a brief period of time to take care of themselves. Lastly, there are caregiver support groups in our area that are a wonderful resource for support.
If you are a caregiver, please know that you are not alone. Contact
Carol Berman, MSW, LSW
Healthy Aging Program at Atlantic Health System
This free hotline provides phone and email-based consultation and referral to community services and resources for seniors and caregivers. Call 973-971-5839 or visit atlantichealth.org, keyword “senior services”.
Alzheimer's Foundation of America's memory screening department is now offering free, confidential memory screenings every Monday and Wednesday from 10 am to 4 pm (ET) through secure video-conference technology. Screenings take approximately 10-15 minutes and are conducted in real-time, one-on-one. Everyone is welcome to take part in the program: there are no minimum age or insurance requirements to get screened. All that's needed is a computer, smartphone or tablet containing a webcam and internet capability. To make an appointment for a free memory screening by calling our memory screening department at 1-866-232-8484.
Alzheimer's Foundation of America