Caregiving for your loved one with dementia, especially during a crisis, can present special challenges. Those with dementia often do not do well with changes in their routine, making it difficult to care for them when the unexpected happens. Below are some ways you can minimize fear and confusion in a crisis:
✦ It is important to remain calm for both your and your loved one’s sake. Distress and chaos can add to an already stressful time. Try to incorporate as much of what is familiar to your loved one during this time. Pick up on cues your loved one may be overwhelmed, such as fidgeting and pacing.
✦ Stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings as they may be confusing for your loved one. Never leave them alone, as a crisis can cause them to wander and become agitated. Try to stay in a group as much as possible and share with others if you are caring for someone with dementia. This may allow you to have better control and extra pairs of eyes on your loved one.
✦ It is likely your loved one will become agitated as a crisis is happening. Speak to them in a calm, low-pitched tone. Limit loud noises as this may increase your loved one’s agitation and anxiety. Redirect their attention by going on walks and doing simple tasks.
✦ Try as much as possible to maintain their sleep schedule, medication schedule, if needed, and their regular daily activities to try and provide what is most routine for them. Extra assistance may be needed during times of crisis.
✦ Keep things easy for your loved one to understand. Avoid elaborate, detailed explanations and use simple concrete terms.
✦ Constantly reassure your loved one they are safe and in the right place, even though they are in a different environment.
Most importantly, you must take care of yourself. Talk with others, if necessary, and share your thoughts and feelings, stay hydrated, and rest as much as possible. Pack important things such as
medications, bottled water, weather-appropriate clothing, a cell phone charger, and a portable oxygen tank, if in use, ahead of time. Being adequately prepared for a crisis situation helps you provide a calm, less anxiety-ridden experience for your loved one with dementia.