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How to handle Dementia in the Elderly

What is Dementia? Dementia refers to a decline in cognitive capacities to such an extent that the daily living is greatly affected. Dementia includes, but not restricted to, memory loss. Other capacities that are compromised are language, communication skills, perception, judgement and reasoning. Dementia can be reversible or irreversible - reversible dementia has an acute onset and can be cured by treating the 'cause'. Irreversible dementia has a more prolonged onset and doesn't have a cure although efforts can be made to manage it. Alzheimer's disease is the major cause for irreversible Dementia. There is not one clear way to help prevent dementia. However, you can follow certain guidelines that help aim to eliminate the risk factors. 1. Regular exercise 2. Healthy diet 3. Mental stimulation 4. Quality sleep 5. Stress management 6. An active social life Develop a routine Do-away with Distractions Eliminate all distractions as it is important to make their living place and environment a comfortable one to live in. Always be positive When communicating with the elderly, always be careful of your tone and body language. Always attempt and ensure you make them feel comfortable and loved. Clear Communication Say exactly what you mean, but be careful on how you say it. Someone with dementia will have some compromised capacities of thinking and maybe unable to decipher and understand even the most common of request and explanations. Try to provide choices Try to restrict open-ended questions. Provide choices when you ask someone with dementia a question. 'Did you like?' is perhaps better than 'What was your favourite?'. It is important to provide them with helpful memory signals, as it also makes conversation less stressful. Always be observant It is important to recognise the person with dementia body language, as they may not always be able to communicate effectively what they are thinking or feeling. Always be helpful but never judgemental It’s common for someone who has Dementia to sometimes be unable to recall a sentence or a word. Always be patient, and you may suggest but do not be judgemental. Demonstrate When providing instructions also try and demonstrate as you speak to them. This helps improve better understanding of the situation. Make the environment Dementia-friendly Use a digital clock instead of an analogue one, a calendar where the date can be clearly marked, put up a family chart with family pictures. These simple additions help go a long way in aiding the person who has dementia and their memory. Delve into their past-interests Find out what your grandad’s favourite songs were in the good old days and play them for him or read him books by his favourite author. Games are great Try engaging the elderly in board games, card-games, or even computer games if they are comfortable playing them. Even “0 & X”s is a great way to help stimulate the brain and jogs quite a few cognitive capacities. Pictures and Videos Browse through old family photo albums and videos. Most Dementia sufferers still have their long-term memory intact, hence this won't be stressful but will provide the much needed jog for their memory. Watch out for stress Keep an eye out for any stress they might experience and try to eliminate it. Do not ignore YOU While you may want to do everything you can for those you love, it is important that you also monitor your own health and mental well-being. Do take time out occasionally. Seek Respite Care You can always turn to organisations and support groups that may work with you for your beloved. Epoch Elder Care is one such organisation that aims to achieve a plateau with the decline and provides respite care. Empathy and understanding are key principles when dealing with someone who has Dementia. It is important to be patient, yet observant. Helping your loved ones feel useful and competent will render them with a greater sense of happiness, autonomy and control.

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