Dementia is a syndrome in which a person begins to have problems with memorization, orientation in time and space, and with rational thinking, which is often replaced by delusional ideation. Dementia is a disease in which the patient’s condition gets progressively worse over time. Today it is incurable, but some treatments moderate the symptoms of the disease, depending on its stage.
However, it should not be forgotten that as the disease progresses, the abilities and interests of the dementia patient may change. Therefore, in providing care, it is important to carefully observe the patient and make the necessary changes in the nature and content of their activities.
What care can be provided?
1 – Dementia sufferers at home: provide a safe environment
Loss of memory and impaired coordination of movements in a patient increases the risk of injury. Try to make your home as safe as possible.
- Remove stabbing and cutting objects, household poisons, and medicines.
- Hide dangerous electrical appliances away from sight.
- Shut off the gas supply when the patient is alone.
- Install patient safety devices (such as a microwave oven for food preparation).
- Check the operation of door locks, install locks on the windows.
- Use locks that the patient cannot open.
- Do not change the furniture arrangement familiar to the patient.
- Provide adequate general lighting, staircase lights, and bedside and toilet lights.
2 – Maintain communication
As the disease progresses, communication between caregivers and patients can become more difficult. The patient’s eyesight and hearing should be checked, if necessary, stronger glasses should be ordered, and the hearing aid should be replaced. When communicating, it is recommended to:
- Respectfully address the patient by name;
- Show love and warmth by hugging the patient, if this does not bother them;
- Listen carefully to the patient;
- Pay attention to non-verbal means of communication;
- Before speaking, check if the patient is listening to you.
3 – Bathing and personal hygiene
The patient may forget to wash, not see the need for washing, or not remember how to do it. When offering help to the patient, try to preserve his/her personal dignity.
- When washing their face, try to stick to the patient’s old habits.
- Try to make washing as pleasant as possible; help the patient relax.
- Showering may be easier than bathing, but if the person is not used to showering, it may be disturbing.
- If the patient refuses to bathe or shower, wait a while – the mood may change.
- Let the patient do everything possible themselves.
- If the patient is embarrassed about bathing or showering, you can leave certain parts of the body covered.
4 – Dressing
A dementia patient may forget the dressing procedure, not seeing the need to change clothes. Sometimes in the presence of people, the afflicted appear to be dressed inappropriately.
- Put the patient’s clothes in the order in which they should be worn.
- Avoid clothing with complex fasteners, use garments with elastic bands, Velcro, zippers, etc.
- Do not rush the patient when dressing, encourage his independent actions.
- Shoes should be comfortable, non-slip, with rubber soles, and free but not falling off the feet.
5 – Toilet use and incontinence
Patients may forget where the toilet is and what to do in it; they no longer feel when to go to the toilet.
- Encourage sick people to go to the toilet.
- Set a specific visitation schedule.
- Mark the toilet door with large color letters.
- Leave the toilet door open to make it easier to find.
- Make sure that the patient’s clothing can be easily removed.
- Limit fluid intake as much as reasonable before bed.
- A chamber pot can be placed next to the bed.
- Use diapers if necessary.
6 – Eating and cooking
People with dementia often forget to eat and may not remember how to use a fork or spoon. In the later stages of the disease, the patient needs to be fed. Physical problems may also appear – the lack of the ability to chew and swallow food normally.
- Remind the patient to eat.
- Give them food that they can eat with their hands.
- Cut food into small pieces to prevent the person from choking.
7 – If the patient sleeps poorly
The patient may stay awake at night and interfere with sleep for the whole family. For caregivers, this can be the most debilitating problem. What can be done?
- Try not to let the patient sleep during the day.
- Taking a long walk every day can help. Do more physical activities during the day.
- Make sure that the patient, going to bed, can feel secure and comfortable.
On a concluding note
Do not blame yourself or the patient for the difficulties you have to face. Remember – only the illness is at fault. If you think that you are losing touch with family and friends, do not blame them or yourself.
It can be very helpful for you to seek the advice of a home health care dementia nurse or specialist about the changes taking place with the patient.
It is also critical that you take care of yourself. In their life you are irreplaceable, and without you, the patient may not survive. With this in mind, it is of the utmost importance that you take care of yourself and remain as healthful as possible.
Retrieved from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/carers/
Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia