How to take care of a dementia patient at home
Dementia is a disease that takes away everything that a human keeps close. The only thing that remains of the patient is an outer husk. Their memories perish, their ability to ask, speak, think and recollect goes away. The onslaught of the disease is criminal enough to bar the patient’s ability to smile or even swallow. What causes dementia is a question that has plagued multiple lives. Doctors, patients, and family members alike have struggled to find the answer. It is a nightmare of a disease. It is a challenge for not just the patient but also for the caregivers and family. Patients living with Alzheimer’s and other such cognitive degenerative diseases undergo progressive damage that eventually takes the patient’s life. Memory, language, cohesive thinking, clear communication become difficult for the patient.
Along with the loss of cognitive functions, the patient also suffers from mood swings and significant changes in personality and behavior. This article provides practical, tried and tested strategies to help the readers deal with the troubles of caring for a patient with dementia. We hope that this article will help you solve the most significant issues in your caregiving journey.
Communication is key
Communication with a dementia patient may seem like the Morse code. We may not instinctively know how to interact with the patients but it’s a craft one can master with time, attention and a whole lot of affection. Better communication skills will reduce your stress and enhance your ability to solve the problems created by challenging behavior in the patients.
Setting a positive mood for your loved one is essential. The use of facial expression, softer tone of voice and gentle physical touch can be used to convey your message and let the patient know that you don’t mean to harm them. Your actions and voice should catch their attention. Addressing them with their name and your relation will help them maintain their focus. Keeping eye-contact by getting to their level will help them understand your words better. Any nonverbal cues and relevant touches could be helpful to both the parties. Ask simple questions while trying to communicate with them. Show them two choices instead of asking them. For example, show them the red and white sweaters to let them decide what they want to share.
The biggest challenge while dealing with patients who have dementia is to maintain your patience and calm in the worst situations. You must try to understand the nonverbal clues and understand the message their body language portrays. Listen with not just your ears, use your eyes and heart to catch the word that underlies in their actions.
When things get tough for you to handle, remember the good days you’ve had before. Remember the past would soothe you and help you continue with the caregiving. The patients may not remember what they had for lunch 20 minutes ago, but they may have a clear recollection of a boating trip they had 40 years ago. You should avoid asking questions about the immediate past, things from the short-term memory are hard for you to retain, but questions about the distant past are more likely to remain with them.
Dealing with aggression
Aggressive behaviors are a likely outcome in majority dementia case. Symptoms such as verbal and physical aggression, irritability and severe sleeplessness are prevalent. These symptoms usually progress with the disease and range from mild to severe, depending on the patient and their history of emotional stability. Braintests reveal that a long history of untreated depression and chronic pain may lead to dementia in the later years. The agitation has a lot of situational triggers, but the central cause of irrational behavior among patients is because of the loss of control. When little things such as eating by themselves, going to the loo on their own, or dressing themselves become cumbersome to them. Frustration in these scenarios often leads to verbal or physical violence. Hence, understanding your loved one’s behavior is essential for you to avoid any problematic situations.
The woes of paranoia
If your loved-one suddenly started to act accusatory, jealous or even suspicious, you may not be able to handle yourself. The patients of dementia suffer through major episodes of paranoia where the things they go through becomes hyper-real to them. Trying to avoid arguments and disagreements in such circumstances will prove beneficial for you and them too. The confused person may assume that you’ve taken their money or one of their valuables. To avoid aggressive reactions, you can give the patient a small amount of money to keep in their pocket or purse. When they think that the money went missing, you can help them find the money through distractions and affectionate behavior.
Other problematic areas
Delusional behavior and hallucinations may begin as the disease progresses. When a patient is adamant about a delusion, you can tell them your perception of the situation without arguing with them. Moving curtains or the sound of a car passing by could also irritate the patient. Staying calm and confident will help you out in these situations. Well-lit rooms have minimal shadows which help the patient. Distraction and if necessary, medication will help the patient calm down.
Another problem with dementia is sexually inappropriate behavior in patients. They may masturbate, undress, pass lewd remarks, act sexually aggressive or even make sexual demands. In these circumstances, you need to remember that it’s their disease and not their personal choice. Try to develop a plan of action when this behavior happens. Decide beforehand about what you would do if this happens in front of other family members, friends or paid caregivers. Understand the triggers to help you better.
Evie harrison is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs.