Posted on Feb 11, 2016
Our first three articles in this series about dementia, deal with the symptoms, diagnosis and causes of this condition. This article will focus on five important facts that caregivers should know about home support services. Whether you are a partner, adult child, relative or neighbour who cares for someone with dementia, incredible amounts of understanding are required. Therefore, it is important that you use home support services in ways that assist both you and your loved one.
There are a variety of community and professional services that you can access. You can use these services on a regular basis or for occasional respite. You can also choose which tasks you would like them to perform.
Community: Organisations such as “Meals on Wheels” can assist if you find that you do not have time to do particular chores. In the early stages, your loved one can be quite independent and you may find that community services are able to provide adequate support.
Professional: As your loved one declines, an in-home carer can undertake tasks that have become difficult. Depending on your individual case, this can vary from household chores to nursing duties to simply socialising with your loved one.
Home support services understand the importance of rosters. You and your loved one will have fewer problems if routines are established prior to seeking home support. Create a timetable which includes all activities from medication times to specialist visits. Identify the activities on your timetable that you and your loved one enjoy doing together such as gardening. Other activities such as doing the washing which may require more time and patience can be allocated to a support person.
As a caregiver who deals with your loved one on a daily basis, you may not notice the subtle changes that occur. A home support person can bring a fresh perspective and be a valuable resource in helping identify new challenges being faced by your loved one. Keeping open lines of communication with a home support person means that you can come up with solutions together and be consistent when dealing with your loved one.
Your home support person is there to give you respite and provide your loved one with a quality of life. Your in-home carer should therefore encourage your loved one to retain independence with all tasks from getting dressed to washing the dishes. The tasks may take longer than usual but your loved one will feel useful. Of course, as decline occurs, home support services may have to take over tasks when your loved one can no longer complete them.
As your loved one’s condition declines, you become his or her advocate as you navigate changes in medication, find new communication strategies and adjust activities. Often caregivers are so concerned with these practical matters that they forget to focus on the relationship. It is important that you enjoy this precious time with your loved one. Utilise home support services in ways that allow you to spend quality time with this important person in your life.
In order to be an effective caregiver, it is important that you retain some aspects of your own life. In most dementia cases, caregivers find that volunteer and professional assistance are needed at some point. Do not hesitate to seek support services so that time spent with your loved one is pleasant rather than fraught with frustration.
Image credit: "Senior Dance 3" (cropped) by Jeffrey Smith. (Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)