Caring for a Loved One with Progressive Dementia

Progressive dementia is a very common disorder in which a person gradually loses many of their normal mental functions. Dealing with a loved one suffering from this disorder can be extremely physically and emotionally challenging. Remembering that the person we are dealing with is suffering deeply can make it a bit easier to empathize with them. As frustrating as it is to be asked the same question ten times or listen to him/her repeat the same thing constantly, try to bear in mind that your loved one is living in a confusing and scary world.

Often patients with this disorder have an easier time recalling long term events rather than short term. Talking to your loved one more about the past not only distracts them and allows them to focus on something they can remember, but also reminds you of who your loved one really is. Unfortunately, after a patient has suffered for a long time, we often forget who they really are, and it can make it harder and more painful to take care of them.

Disorientation is a common symptom of medications and the disorder itself. Violence and irritability is also very normal. Distractions can be remarkably useful in keeping the patient’s mind off whatever is bothering them that they cannot even comprehend. Try to refrain from arguing about whatever false accusations or “memories” your loved one speaks of. In their mind it is all real and doing so will only frustrate them and make them more paranoid. Reminding your loved one that you are there for him/her and that she/he is safe will give them relief and more peace of mind (even if it is only for a short while until you need to remind them again.)

Taking care of yourself is not a selfish thing we all need a break sometimes and by you doing so you are enabling yourself to take even better care of your loved one. Know that you are not alone, millions of people are going through similar situations and it can be very comforting to reach out to friends, family or others that you know will understand.

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