Thursday 13 June 2013

GUEST POST - Diagnosed With Dementia: What to Expect as a Caregiver

In an unexpected, swift life change, you're suddenly the caregiver for your loved one who's been diagnosed with dementia. Your life and priorities have changed forever. As your loved one begins to lose physical abilities and mental capabilities, your life will revolve around caring for them. Knowing what to expect can make the road ahead easier and more manageable to navigate.


Medical science can help slow the progression of the disease, but it is a terminal disease ( While this can be difficult to accept, understanding the disease at its outset will help you learn about what is going to happen in the coming years. Expectations also help limit feelings of grief and anger as you endure difficult days and challenging moments.

Patients with dementia often cannot control their behaviors. They may ask the same question over and over or get lost easily, according to An individual with dementia may also experience mood disorders and extreme anger. They can forget people, places and events. As a caregiver, expect to face hardships and challenges that can be physically and emotionally draining.

Preparation for Help

Throughout your dementia journey, you will need help. Trying to do it alone will only make it difficult and frustrate both of you. In addition to emotional support, you'll likely need the ongoing help of a health care professional with the proper health care background and education, such as certifiable PSW courses in Ontario or another city. A PSW is a personal support worker who has the trained skills and knowledge to care for clients suffering from dementia. They can help with mental activation and assist with personal hygiene.

Emotional Support

Watching someone you love slip away little by little is painful. Grief and anger are normal. You may even question the diagnosis when things are going well, according to Emotions and denial can impact your ability to care for the individual, so it's important to understand, accept and deal with them. In the midst of negative emotions, consider these strategies, as recommended by

  • Identify and surrender to feelings

  • Remove yourself from the situation when frustrated

  • Figure out the trigger

  • Talk to someone you trust or write in a journal

  • Remember to care for your own needs

  • Know your limits and stick to them

  • Your bond with your loved one will grow as you care and provide companionship. You'll create greater compassion and acceptance. You'll also make new relationships as you seek support and education.

    Practical Tips for Dementia Caregivers

    When you are in the trenches of caring for someone with dementia, life can feel overwhelming. Keep the following tips in mind:

    • Distinguish between what you can and cannot change

    • Recognize signs of frustration and ask for help when you start to get frustrated

    • Focus on redirection, not reality (For example, instead of reminding the individual that her mother is dead, ask her to tell you about her mother when she asks for her)

    • Avoid making agreements, as the individual may not remember anyway

    • Learn to tell, not ask (

    • Calling this journey difficult is an understatement. Asking for help doesn't mean you love the individual less or are less committed. Learn your limits and research what you can about the disease. Accept help and you'll get through this journey gracefully.

      By Alexis Brown
      Alexis is a medical student from Philadelphia and writes for several blogs.


      Anonymous said...

      My husband was diagnosed with probable Alzheimers Disease and lived for 13 years afterwards. I cared for him at home until the last six months when my physician said, "If you keep doing this, it will kill you." He moved to a nearby care facility with compassionate caregivers.

      Now I am experiencing short term memory loss at age 70. I have a four-hour per day caregiver who is a long-time family friend. I am considering keeping a journal.

      The Caregivers' Living Room said...

      Thank you for writing - I am so glad to know that you have a long-time family friend who is helping you. That is a great blessing. Helping a spouse through the progressive ravages of Alzheimer's is unimaginably difficult. I hope that you do take up writing a journal. I wanted to share another blog with you - it's by a woman whose husband has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's. I am sure there will be much there that you will find painfully familiar, but it's important to know that those going through this are not alone.