Finding out that your loved one has dementia can be difficult and scary. You know their lifestyle will inevitably change, and you know one day, they might not remember who you are.

It can be a very overwhelming and heartbreaking thought, and taking care of such a relative can be extremely challenging. It requires a lot of patience and unconditional love. Luckily, as scary as it all seems at first, there are ways to maintain their quality of life and make it a bit easier for yourself as well. With that in mind, here are five things you should know about caring for your demented relative.

It will affect more than just their memory

When talking about dementia, the first thing that’ll pop to most people’s mind is the loss of memory. True, it is the most common symptom, but there are also many types of dementia that manifest themselves in personality changes rather than memory loss. The symptoms depend on which part of the brain is damaged, and there are usually more symptoms than one. For example, mood swings are very common, as well as temporal and spatial disorientation. Delusions and hallucinations can also happen, so a person with dementia may start believing somebody is plotting against them. Not every dementia is the same, and not every demented person will behave in the same way. However, unfortunately, it does get worse, and there is no cure, so you need to be prepared for the effort it’ll take to care for your relative

Set realistic expectations

A big part of long-term dementia care is being realistic about what counts as success. As mentioned, you can’t stop the progression of the disease, but you can ensure that your loved one is comfortable, safe, and happy. Don’t expect too much from them – it can only make you both feel frustrated. Let them enjoy the simple things, like gardening, taking care of pets, or sorting their old photos. Also, limit the number of difficult tasks, or try to do them when your loved one is less agitated. The thing is, they will have bad days, and they will have good days, and as long as there are more good days than bad, you are doing a great job.

Things are not always as they seem

Mood swings are common for people with dementia; they could be perfectly calm one moment, and start yelling or getting physical the next one. One of the most important things to remember is that your loved one is not doing anything on purpose. Aggression in people with dementia is usually triggered by something, so you should see it a sign that something is making them uncomfortable, whether it is an unfamiliar environment, poor communication, or simply fear. In these cases, what you should do is try to identify what it is that is bothering them, and once you do, try to draw their attention to something else.

There are still ways to improve

When you learn that your loved one has dementia, you might think it’s too late to do anything about it. And even though you cannot stop or cure the disease, you can slow it down and improve the quality of life by introducing healthy habits. For example, you should make sure they get enough exercise, and you should do mentally stimulating things with them, like playing board games, doing crosswords, etc.

Don’t neglect yourself

Last but not least, you need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of somebody else. You will feel a lot, from hopelessness to resentment, and you should know that it’s all normal. However, you should not let it take over your life and grow into depression, so don’t hesitate to seek help when needed. Caregiving can be a lonely, exhausting, and frustrating job, and knowing that you are not alone can help you do it a bit more easily.

Taking care of somebody with dementia is something most of us have a hard time imagining until it actually happens. So, if you’ve just learned that your loved one has this disease, do your research, arm yourself with love and patience, find a support group to help you out, and have no doubt that you will be the best caregiver your loved one could hope for.

Thank you to our guest blogger Chloe Taylor

Chloe is a graduated journalist from Adelaide and a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator. She loves everything related to decor, aesthetic and lifestyle topics. She is also passionate about photography. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take some stunning photographs of beautiful places. Beside all this, she enjoys drinking coffee and reading a beautiful book from time to time.