At Acorn, we have the opportunity to meet exceptional caregivers. We are delighted to share these insights from a remarkable woman, Eugenie Drew, who has years of caregiving experience.

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Have you learned that your loved one has dementia? Feeling anxious, frustrated or even afraid? There is hope and good news. Your loved ones can enjoy a rewarding life. “How exactly?” is the question. Caring for our loved ones is as easy as showing love, recognizing their needs and being patient with them.

Love is a word sometimes used casually. This is not the kind of love needed to help our elders through their challenges. Our love must be unconditional. It involves a willingness to bend over backwards to ensure their needs are met. Planning with your loved ones is also useful. Including them in the planning gives them a sense of being. Shutting them out will only make them angry, and no one wants to feel as though they can’t care for themselves. To eliminate this frustration, help them feel like they are part of the action.

Sometimes there may be a need to redirect them. How do we do this? Don’t come across as bossy and demanding; instead redirect them in love. We will get better results that way. Remember, your love must be genuine!

Such unconditional love helps us recognize their needs. There is no definite way to identify the needs for all patients, simply because they vary. Some may desire to have company, while others prefer to be alone. Some may become frustrated easily, while others are as peaceful as can be. As a caregiver it takes a lot of observation. Just because they have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean that they have lost all their senses. They still know when they are treated well. What should you look for? Observe their likes and dislikes and work with them in that vein. Avoid doing the things they dislike. Encourage the things they like.

As you encourage them, it is important to be patient. Patience plays a great role in the care of your loved ones. Yelling or using negative body language is never a good way to communicate with persons diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is true that you are human, however, it is not necessary to show or express your feelings to your loved ones negatively. Remember, this is new and challenging for them as well.

Be prepared to listen and respond to the same questions repeatedly. This is due to their short- term memory. They can’t always recall recent activities or conversations. Be patient when redirecting them. If they are not ready to do what they are asked right away, give them some space and revisit it a little later. Do not push them! Allow them to make that decision. Encouraging them works much better than forcing them. Forcing can make them angry and recalcitrant. They still deserve to be treated with respect and should be afforded their privacy.

Do not get weary. Continue to show love to your loved ones even in trying moments. Patience is a virtue. Let us practice patience with those diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Do you want to keep your loved one comfortable and happy? Focus on these three things: love, recognizing their needs, and patience.

Caring Corner

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About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.

They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist. In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.
Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.

Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones. He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio. He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.