This blog post focuses on ways to “prepare for care.” It is the fourth installment of a seven-part series on common sense caregiving for people with dementia. The series features seven principles that can improve quality of life for caregivers and their loved ones. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is a helpful mnemonic (memory device) for remembering these tried and true tips:
The Seven Common Senses of Dementia Care
Have a Plan
People often compare dementia to a journey. As with any other trip, planning ahead and creating an itinerary can ensure that people with dementia and their caregivers have an easier, safer and better time along the way. Whether preparing a loved one with dementia for the events of a day, week or longer period of time, keep in mind the first principle listed above. Respect and adhere to the personal preferences of someone with dementia to the reasonable extent possible. Also consider the effects of the disease, such as sundowning (increased confusion and/or behavioral problems toward the end of the day). If a loved one with dementia is an early riser and/or has sundowning, it may make the most sense to schedule appointments, activities, and even the main daily meal during daylight hours rather than the evening.
Pack like a Pro
Here’s something that everyone should be packing: A medication list. This list should include prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements, as well as any allergies or sensitivities. Also include the names and numbers of doctors and other members of a loved one’s medical and caregiving teams. The list may be entered and stored in a smartphone so the information is always at hand and never forgotten or left at home. Such a list may save enormous hassle and even be lifesaving. A caregiver should carry a personal medication list and one for their loved one with dementia. At least one other trusted family member or friend should also have a copy in case of emergency. Another tip is to add an ICE (In Case of Emergency) number to the list of contacts. In the absence of a cell phone, the medication list and contact information may be typed or written out and carried in a wallet or purse.
On the journey of caring for someone with dementia, enlist help (see #2 above) and work as a team.
Careful preparation makes for a better journey—day-by-day and for the long haul—and sets the stage for the next blogpost in this series: Engagement.
By Anne M. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. Neurologist and Author of The Common Sense Guide to Dementia For more information on the Seven Common Senses, see Dr. Lipton’s book, The Common Sense Guide to Dementia for Clinicians and Caregivers.