Patients who are elderly and who suffer from dementia may be uncomfortable around anyone else or may refuse to work with a stranger in the home. However, there are several ways through which caregiver can influence the behavior of elderly people suffering from dementia.
Caring for a person who has Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia takes skill and compassion. Getting through each day takes creativity and a fair amount of compromising. Equally important is the caregiver’s ability to establish and maintain a good mood. Laughter may truly be one of the best medicines for the client with dementia and for the caregiver.
Staying physically and mentally fit is crucial for the caregiver who plans to take on the role for years to come. The caregiver should be aware too, that a pleasant uplifting outlook on life has a significant effect on the elderly person. Laughter and a cheerful environment may even slow the effects of dementia.
Living in Two Different Worlds
A caregiver (most often an adult female) for an elderly loved one with dementia learns to live in two worlds. She has already mastered the routine world by balancing household duties, raising children, pleasing a spouse, maintaining a social life, and perhaps even holding a job outside the home. But once an elderly loved one with dementia moves into the house, things change drastically.
The caregiver now interacts closely with a person who has memory loss and is often confused or disoriented. The parent may argue a lot, wander away from home, may constantly misplace belongings, or may even accuse the caregiver of stealing possessions. Even normal conversation can be frustrating and exhausting for both the caregiver and the elderly person as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
Caregiver Personality and Mood Impact on the Care Receiver
Elderly people with dementia respond to voice tone, body language, the caregiver’s attitude, and even the caregiver’s emotions. The caregiver who is anxious and stressed out much of the time is likely to cause agitation and frustration in the elderly person. On the other hand, the caregiver who takes changes to the daily routine in stride and who laughs at life’s little mishaps makes the world tolerable, if not more pleasant – especially for the client.
Caregivers who recognize and accept the continuous changes in a loved one’s behavior are likely to have an easier time coping with dementia. Trying to manipulate the elderly patient’s mood may not work all the time; but when it does work, caregivers and elderly clients feel less stressed and are better able to focus on things important.
The son or daughter who is both confident and comfortable around the elderly person with dementia will have a much easier time adapting to the caregiver role. An easy-going personality and a willingness to be flexible are positive characteristics of the successful caregiver. Laughing and a cheerful nature have therapeutic benefits for the elderly person with dementia. The effects of Alzheimer’s disease may even be slowed by laughter because it stimulates the brain with extra oxygen. When the client is feeling good about himself, he is more likely to be cooperative and focused, thus making the caregiver’s job easier.
Elderly people want to be treated fairly and respected for who they are. Caregivers, agency attendants, and anyone who oversees the care of an older person is reminded that the elderly person is still an adult and deserves to be treated as such. Many elderly people want to contribute to society as productive individuals. Older family members want to participate in family events, social activities, romance and relationships, volunteer programs, political meetings, and whatever else captures their interest.
Quite a few seniors go right back to work after retirement – some work because they need the money, but others work because they want to. Elderly people can also work from home, drawing on years of experience to create a successful business. Just because an older person needs someone to drive him (or her) around and needs help managing meals, dressing, and so forth, doesn’t mean that the person is no longer useful. A frail elderly person no longer able to move about can still have a sharp mind and should be allowed to exercise whatever ability is left.
In an age where technology makes so many things possible – and easily accessible – one can run a business, conduct meetings, take college classes, teach college courses, write a book, and engage in hundreds of other activities from a home office, the comfort of an easy chair, or even a bed. Elderly people provide society with a wealth of knowledge, experience, and valuable information. A caregiver’s job certainly isn’t what it used to be where seniors are concerned. As the elderly culture takes on new vitality for life, one of the best ways a caregiver can show respect and compassion is to encourage an aging parent or elderly person to stay active and involved.