With dementia, there is an abundance of good-natured advice from family, friends and health care professionals. To assist in filtering the good advice from the bad, here are the top five tips about dementia care.

1. You don’t need a registered nurse to provide dementia care in the home. Some RNs can provide excellent dementia care. In some cases, however, they may feel overqualified and may not have the personality attributes required to do a great job. A caregiver’s experience, personality and, most importantly, training in specific behavioral tactics in dementia care will have a more meaningful impact on your loved one than medical training as an RN.

2. Your loved one may never move into a residential community that will provide specialized memory care. Given the current situation with COVID-19, remaining at home or coming back home may be a safer scenario than living in a community with lots of other people. Many families choose to have their loved one cared for at home through the end of their lives. We are seeing an upward spike in clients wanting to put off moving into a residential community and increase the amount of care they receive at home. Even if this is a short-term trend it is certainly consistent with much of the advice coming out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other channels about how to stay safe in the current environment.

3. Your loved one may never tell you when they are ready to have care. Denial is a very powerful human emotion and a very common self-protection that we observe in the senior population we serve. The problem is that as many as 80 percent of people living with dementia have a complete lack of insight into their condition. The result is that they often resist receiving the care they need to stay safe. Since dementia often degrades their ability to reason, their condition tends to worsen rather than improve. If you are worried, it’s highly likely that the time has come to introduce care in a way that your loved one will more readily accept the help they need.

4. You can have a high quality of life if you have dementia. Each case of dementia that we see has unique characteristics and therefore specific care needs. Even in its most severe stage, the loved one can still experience joy, comfort and purpose in life. The quality of life depends on the relationships they have with their loved ones, community and home care providers.

5. It may be possible to provide better care that what you are currently giving. One of the big challenges to providing excellent dementia care is to find caregivers that the dementia client can understand. This includes consideration of the impact of foreign accents because dementia impairs the ability to process speech. Through specialized training, good caregivers learn not to challenge your loved one’s memory, argue or try to use logic, as these approaches trigger agitation and produce anxiety.

Caregivers who specialize in dementia care treat your loved one as a companion and a friend. They proactively plan activities that engage your loved one rather than being task oriented or, worse, waiting for your loved one to direct them and ask for help with physical needs.

Mitch Williams and Peggy Milne own and operate Home Helpers of San Mateo County with offices in Half Moon Bay and San Mateo. Mitch can be reached at mwilliams@homehelpershomecare.com or (650) 532 3122.

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