Dementia progresses as people age. Help your loved one hold on to good memories and spend time with them.

In Singapore, about 1 in 10 (amongst the elderly aged 60 years and above) suffers from dementia. This corresponds to approximately 82,000 persons with dementia in 2018 and is projected to increase to 152,000 by 2030.

What if one of them is from your family?


Taking Care of an Elderly With Dementia 

Work together with the whole family when caring for someone with dementia and seek help when necessary  


Work together with the whole family when caring for someone with dementia and seek help when necessary 

Finding out that a loved one has dementia can be an uncertain time for your family. In the months and years ahead, you may see your loved one struggle with familiar tasks or misplace items. Even simple conversations in your daily life may be challenging as dementia progresses.

If you are the main family caregiver caring for the dementia patient, don't be disheartened. Instead, rope in everyone in the family to rally around you and the person with dementia as you prepare for the road ahead.


Tips for Dementia Caregivers

Prepare for the Journey

Talking to a doctor about dementia, including the types of dementia and how it affects the nerve cells.  

Prepare for the Journey

Talking to a doctor about dementia, including the types of dementia and how it affects the nerve cells. 

Start by learning as much as you can about dementia. Talk to healthcare professionals such as doctors and counsellors and read about the illness—such as the symptoms of dementia and different types of dementia—to build your knowledge. This will help you know what to expect as it progresses.

Understand that your loved one is more than his illness. Dementia hasn't changed the person he was before the diagnosis, which includes his hobbies and interests. Focus on what he can do3, for instance, your loved one may no longer be able to play the guitar but can still enjoy listening to music.

Once you know how dementia is likely to progress, it's time to plan your resources according to your loved one's needs at each stage.

It may be good to work out the sums and gauge how your family's finances may be affected by medical bills. For example, is your loved one covered by health insurance, or does he have sufficient savings in his Medisave to tap on? Knowing how this may impact the family's finances will help you adjust your lifestyle if necessary.

 

Do you need to change your work arrangements such as by working part-time, or even stop working? Who else in your family can step in to relieve you when you need to step out? There are community services you can tap on too, such as the Home Nursing Care for Seniors service which can watch over your loved one in your home while you attend to other matters.

Plan your time and make time for yourself because dementia caregiving is not easy. You can't pour from an empty cup, so as you care for your loved one, it's just as important to care for yourself. Find time to go for a walk or catch up with friends as these breaks will keep you going during the long journey.

There's a lot to do at this stage, so prioritise your goals and work through them one at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.


Accept and Adapt

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. You can help them hold on to their  hobbies, such as painting with them.  

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. You can help them hold on to their hobbies, such as painting with them. 

You've got a lifetime of memories with your loved one that dementia can't take away. Help your loved one hold on to good memories and incite a sense of nostalgia in them with family dinners, birthday celebrations, old photos and even return visits to their favourite local places before dementia advances.

When your loved one forgets people or can't recall how to walk home from the MRT station, remember that they can't help the memory loss or having memory problems. Try to be patient and support them with love and acceptance rather than frustration.

Focus on what is possible and help your loved one live a full and dignified life by letting them do things for themselves or even help with chores such as setting the table for dinner. This helps to boost their sense of self-worth.

Dementia may erode a person's mental abilities, but it doesn't change their capacity for love. Why not learn to communicate differently with your loved one, such as with simple conversations and physical affection.

Ultimately, the key to a fulfilling journey with your loved one is accepting what you cannot change. His needs will evolve with time and being adaptable will help you avoid stress in the long term.

Seek Help, Share Support

Symptoms of dementia include memory loss. Be patient when talking to a person with dementia.  

Symptoms of dementia include memory loss. Be patient when talking to a person with dementia. 

There may be times when you feel stuck or frustrated. Feelings such as fear, fatigue and anxiety are normal — what's important is recognising and addressing them.

Instead of brushing your feelings aside, it's good to talk to your family members, or other caregivers, such as at caregiver support groups at Dementia Singapore.

Not only can you exchange caregiving tips with people going through a similar experience, you can also encourage each other. Tapping on online forums or support groups may be useful too, especially if you do not always have time to meet up with other caregivers.

Community organisations such as Ren Ci Hospital and NTUC Health offer respite care services, which can take over caregiving duties for a temporary period, so your family can rest and recharge. That's an option you can keep in mind.

Try to pace yourself as you care for your loved one. Celebrate small wins during your caregiving journey. These can be as simple as exercising patience with your loved one or even making it through a tough day.

Remember, caring for a loved one with dementia is a marathon, not a sprint. Your love for the patient, be it your spouse, parent, or sibling, is what will see you through.

 

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References

  1. Subramaniam. M, et. al. Prevalence of Dementia in People Aged 60 years and above: Results from the WiSE Study, 2015, Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 45 (2015) 1127-1138
  2. Early-Stage Caregiving. (2021) Alzheimer's Association. https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/stages-behaviors/early-stage
  3. Providing Care. Agency of Integrated Care. (2021)
  4. A Guide to Taking Care of Yourself. (2021). Family Caregiver Alliance. https://www.caregiver.org/resource/guide-taking-care-yourself/?via=caregiver-resources,caring-for-yourself,general-self-care