The number of people living with dementia is on the rise. As the senior population in Canada continues to grow, so too will the number of people with dementia.
It’s important to provide quality care for dementia patients. The condition can be challenging. If you’re involved in caring for dementia patients, these 10 tips might come in handy.
1. It’s Not Just Memory Loss
When caring for dementia patients, it’s important to remember the condition isn’t just memory loss. While memory loss is one of the most prominent symptoms, dementia can also affect other parts of the brain. Some particular types of dementia may manifest in different ways.
Remembering dementia is more complex than memory loss alone will help you provide better care for patients.
2. Be Realistic
If you’re caring for an older relative or a loved one, it can be frustrating because of how different things become. Even if you’re caring for someone else as a healthcare worker, it can still be irritating to answer the same question or need to repeat yourself.
It’s important to be realistic about what constitutes success for a dementia patient, especially as the disease progresses. The patient may have good days and bad days, but do your best to foster “good days.”
For the dementia patient, the world is sometimes a confusing place. They may sometimes be aware they can’t remember like they used to. They may be frustrated by situations or their inability to complete a task or remember a name.
Do your best to empathize while caring for dementia patients. Trying to understand how they feel and what they’re experiencing will allow you to provide better care. Your patients will feel safer and less frustrated.
4. Engage the Brain
As much as the dementia patient’s brain doesn’t function the way it once did, you should still work to actively engage the person in activities and exercises designed to preserve skills and function. Always be sure you’re using stage-appropriate activities for the individual patient.
5. Use the Five Rs
You should always remain calm when caring for dementia patients. Arguing and reasoning with a flustered patient will only upset you both. Make sure you respond to their feelings. Reassure them about their care and safety. If necessary, remove yourself from the situation for a moment or two. When you’ve regained your composure, return.
6. Don’t Neglect Other Conditions
Caring for dementia patients isn’t a one-dimensional job. Many patients will have more than one medical condition that needs to be responded to in an appropriate way. Some patients, for example, may suffer from anxiety or depression, in addition to dementia.
7. Create Structure and Routine
Routine is very helpful for dementia patients, which is why most caregivers strive to ensure some structure in their patients’ day-to-day lives. Routine is also comforting for many people. It’s reassuring to know what comes next. It can also give a sense of purpose, if the person needs to complete a task, or if there’s something to look forward to.
8. Foster Independence
It can be tempting to just take over for a dementia patient. Nonetheless, you should hold back. Allow the patient to complete those tasks he or she is capable of. Assist as necessary.
This fosters a sense of accomplishment and independence. It can also help preserve skills.
Establish good communication when caring for dementia patients. Stating your message clearly and asking simple questions can ease interactions. Be sure to listen carefully and set a positive mood for interactions whenever possible.
10. Care for the Caregiver
Don’t forget to care about yourself. Caring for dementia patients can be an all-consuming task. Ask for help and support when (or even before) you need it. Give yourself a well-deserved break!