The Quality Care Campaign are delighted to feature a guest blog from Holly on behalf of FirstCare, who explains how to improve the quality of life for those with dementia, in five simple ways:
Dementia represents a class of symptoms that present in the form of memory loss, poor judgment and a general decline in cognitive skills. As a medical professional or family member, it is important to learn the do’s and don’ts of taking care of a patient with dementia so as to provide a safe and comfortable environment. Dementia mainly presents itself in the three following stages:
- Mild dementia where a patient has difficulty in remembering small issues such as new names and places or keeping to a daily schedule.
- Moderate dementia presents as poor judgment, forgetful wandering, bad language and poor cleanliness. Interventions from family and medical professionals are often required at the moderate state.
- Severe dementia can require 24hr care or monitoring because there are serious memory loss, poor bladder and bowel control as well as difficulty swallowing food. This stage can be very stressful for both the person with dementia and caregivers, specialised support is required at this stage.
Below are a few tips to help you learn how to take care of dementia patients and create a loving environment for them.
1. Do not overreact to aggressive behavior
It is important to understand that people with dementia can be upset by the smallest of issues and when this happens your objective should be calming things down to reduce further distress. A statement like ‘I don’t want to shower’ could simply mean that the water feels too cold. If you then try to force the patient to shower then they could easily turn violent and harm you or themselves. It is important to be able to listen and take even minor concerns seriously. Dementia patients can often forget where they are especially when they are in a new environment and they communicate this often by stating ‘I want to go home’.
Project Co-ordinator at FirstCare, Jane Byrne, points out that there are many causes of dementia. “The most common is Alzheimer’s, though the symptoms of dementia can also be caused by a series of strokes, known as vascular dementia.” Jane points out that “Over time ongoing mini strokes can worsen a patient’s dementia symptoms, causing a gradual decline in cognitive functioning, as a care team it’s important to adapt as time goes on”.
2. Create a daily routine
A routine can be very helpful as dementia patients can still be able to remember tasks that are repetitive and schedules that are easy to follow. Critical tasks like medical appointments and hygiene should be placed earlier in the day when the brain is fresh and functioning optimally. It’s okay to have a touch of spontaneous actions like visiting a friend but only a little at a time.
3. Learn to speak simply to communicate effectively
When speaking to a dementia patient it is important to start by making sure you have their undivided attention first. Speak in a calming and positive tone. If you’re asking questions, then make sure they are clear and short and easy to answer. Respond to answers with patience and understanding as their communication is likely to be more mixed up as their dementia progresses.
4. Have a clean, organised and safe home
It is critical that a dementia patients feel that the home environment is soothing and calm. Disorganisation and moving things around can cause distress. The environment should be calming and the lighting should be neither too bright or too dark. The house should have safety measures to alert you if the patient has left the house. The shower should have a safety mat and all dangerous chemicals and medication should be out of reach for the patient.
5. Plan for the inevitable future
Eventually, dementia often reaches a severe level requiring round the clock care and this can only be provided by specialised care services who have experience in supporting those suffering from dementia. This means sufficient financial planning ahead and doing your due diligence to find caring facilities that offer the best quality at affordable rates, and are close enough so you to family so that they can maintain their relationship.
Caring for a person with dementia as a medical professional or a family carer is extremely challenging, these tips will go a little way to helping improve quality of life for both patient and care giver. Overall it’s important to maintain a caring and loving presence despite the difficulties that you will face.
By Holly Clark, Community Manager at FirstCare