Daughter having lunch with senior mother

How to Maintain Meaningful Relationships with Loved Ones with Dementia

How to Maintain Meaningful Relationships with Loved One with Dementia

If you’re currently caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s or other form of senior dementia, you’re not alone. According to the AARP, in the U.S., roughly 40 million family caregivers provide an estimated $470 billion annually in unpaid care to adult relatives. Knowing so many others are in a similar situation can offer some comfort; however, providing dementia support is a difficult role for an untrained caregiver, especially if you have other responsibilities — children to care for or a career.

Attending to the physical and emotional needs of a loved one suffering from dementia can present unique, sometimes overwhelming, challenges. You may have noticed a decrease in your loved one’s ability to perform daily tasks, their communication skills, and even changes in temper and personality. It’s common for these changes to disrupt and distress the lives of both caregiver and patient. As your loved one’s condition progresses, the amount of time you may need to spend assisting them will increase as well. Understanding dementia and revising a lifelong relationship with a parent or grandparent will help you cope with your situation, and will help you both discover joy under circumstances set by the disease.

Caring for Someone with Dementia: 5 Tips on Maintaining and Building Relationships

Being able to connect on a meaningful level while caring for someone with dementia can be difficult, but it’s important to both patient and caregiver. In addition to being mentally rewarding, a strong relationship can even lessen the symptoms of dementia in your loved one. It can take work. Understanding dementia and fostering a meaningful relationship with your loved one will likely include successes and setbacks. But keep at it, and you’ll both find fulfillment.

  1. Find an activity or hobby you both enjoy: It can be an activity as simple as looking at photos or listening to music (for many, music is a terrific memory trigger). Or your shared activity can be more involved, such as  knitting, baking, or joining a club that focuses on a fond interest. Whatever it might be, avoid activities beyond your loved one’s ability or anything that causes frustration. It should be something you both find fulfilling.
  2. Be patient and adapt to their level of communication: Communication can become limited as dementia progresses, and your loved one might have difficulty articulating ideas or following the thread of conversation. This can lead to social withdrawal, moodiness, even depression. It’s important to be patient and encouraging, as you adapt to their level of communication.
  3. Nonverbal communication: As dementia diminishes your loved one’s ability to engage in conversation, you may come to rely on nonverbal communication cues. Smiles, a warm hug or hand-holding are positive examples of nonverbal communication that will mean a lot to your loved one.
  4. Take care of yourself: The healthier you are, the better you’ll be able to care for and engage with your loved one. This applies to your mental wellness as well as physical health. By practicing self-care you can be your best self — thus, better able to create a strong and meaningful bond with your loved one.
  5. Cherish old memories while creating new ones: Being able to reminisce about past events your loved one might remember fondly is a great way to bond. Additionally, don’t just remember “the old days,” but also create new memories right now by spending quality time together regularly. Staying engaged with your loved one and appreciating the relationship you have now can help your bond grow stronger.

Get Help You Need at an Assisted Living or Memory Care Facility

When caring for a loved one suffering from memory loss becomes too much, please consider getting help. It’s critical to both of you.

Memory Care at The Williamsburg Center on The Chesapeake campus in Newport News, VA, delivers the highest-quality Alzheimer’s and dementia care, nursing care and senior health services. While residents live in a secure environment, with individualized care plans and daily assistance from a trained team, you can focus on nurturing a cherished relationship with your loved one.

Contact us today to learn more about high-quality memory care at The Chesapeake.