For those in the later stages of dementia, it may be difficult to maintain the same quality of life that once was held by that individual. But that doesn’t mean that you have to give up entirely on bringing some normalcy to their life. Even small things can make a big difference in the overall quality of life for someone nearing the end of their dementia journey.
Keep up with hygiene and personal care.
This is a big one that may not seem all that important. But I saw this confirmed time and again with my own mom. Before her dementia diagnosis, Dori was always a good dresser and she took pride in that. I know that didn’t leave her when the dementia progressed, she just needed some help with bringing it all together. The staff at the nursing home was so always good about doing her hair and nails and making sure she wore outfits that she looked nice in. And when family or friends would visit, all it would take was a compliment on the barrette in her hair or the new color on her nails to make her face her light up with pride.
Allow some decision-making.
An individual may be moderately to severely cognitively impaired as dementia progresses, but the more you can incorporate choices into everyday life, the more your loved one will maintain some control over his or her life. You may have to help them by limiting options or asking yes/no questions, but being able to make choices is important for people at every age.
Promote healthy sleep habits.
If your loved one struggles with sundowning, insomnia, or some other sleep disorder, then it will be important to try to help them maintain normal sleep schedules. Do this by encouraging good sleep habits, such as limiting daytime naps, waking and going to bed at regular times, being active during the day, and getting enough fresh air and daylight. If your loved one is still struggling with sleep, you may need to speak with your doctor about other treatment options.
Dementia can be a very isolating disease. Do what you can to build in additional opportunities for socializing and relationship-building. If you’re able to, try to build a network of support around your loved one so that they can get regular visits from friends or family members throughout the week instead of seeing everyone on the same day.
Maintain dignity and respect.
Be mindful of the way you talk and interact with your loved one. There may be some degree of adjusting your vocabulary or slowing the pace of your speech, but be careful not to talk down to your loved one. Watch for tone and attitude, and pay attention to your facial expressions and body language too. In caring for my own mom, I also tried to make sure she looked put together as much as possible because I knew that’s what she would want if she were able to understand and verbalize that for herself. (which goes back to #1-keep up with hygiene and personal care).
If you have questions about improving or maintaining quality of life for your loved one, begin by speaking with his or her doctor or a member of the care team. If your loved one’s doctor specializes in geriatrics, then they will have several ideas for effectively supporting your loved one’s well-being.
Contact Dori’s Doves by phone at (218) 849-0631 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like help with your loved one’s quality of life.
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “Quality of Life”. CaringInfo. http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3327 (accessed March 7, 2019).
Alzheimer Society Canada. “Quality of Life”. Living with Dementia. https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/Living-with-dementia/Caring-for-someone/Quality-of-life (accessed March 10, 2019).