Compassionate Care for Dementia Patients at Home
With an increasingly aging population, more older adults are likely to be affected by dementia. Surveys estimate that more than 7 billion adults aged 65 and above have dementia, and the numbers are expected to increase over the years. This is where the importance of dementia care comes into play.
People in the initial stages of dementia may be able to live independently. However, they require care as the condition progresses. In advanced stages, residential care in assisted living facilities and nursing homes or end-of-life care at hospice services may be necessary. However, aging in place (independent living in one's home), if the condition allows, is always a preferred option for many families.
Some possible home care options include day-to-day support (supervision, transportation, meal delivery at home) or long-term care at home (by a family member or home health aides). If you're seeking specialized dementia care solutions for yourself or a loved one, continue reading for tips on providing dignified care to dementia patients.
Understanding the Stages of Dementia
Dementia (a condition triggered by physical changes in the brain leading to loss of mental abilities, including memory loss) is an umbrella term. There are several types of dementia, including Alzheimer's, dementia with Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, mixed dementia (combination of multiple dementias), frontotemporal dementia, and young-onset dementia (develops before 65). These are just a few types of dementia; there are other rarer types.
Most dementias are categorized into early, middle, and late phases and progress through seven stages. Each stage may also be characterized by the worsening of symptoms or the presentation of new symptoms. The seven stages include the following:
Early Stage Dementia
- No cognitive decline: Normal function with no memory loss
- Very mild cognitive decline: Misplaces familiar objects and is unable to recall names
- Mild cognitive decline: Getting lost, struggling to find the right words, and verbal repetition
- Moderate cognitive decline: Forgetting recent events, unable to complete tasks, and trouble concentrating
Middle Stage Dementia
- Moderately severe cognitive decline: Wandering, disorientation, and major memory deficiencies
- Severe cognitive decline: Delusions, sleep difficulties, inability to perform activities of daily living, as well as forgetting names of family members
Late Stage Dementia
- Very severe cognitive decline: Impaired bodily functions and inability to communicate
Creating Familiar Routines and Environments
As dementia patients' memory and cognitive ability decline, they're likely to be more irritable and frustrated as they struggle to remember things. Creating familiar routines and environments helps them cope as they require less mental ability to figure their way around situations and chores.
While you may empathize with them and want to help as much as you can, it's best to involve them to help them keep active. When creating schedules for them, do it wisely and plan activities when they're most alert. Having a structured dementia care routine also helps reduce stress and promote their level of independence. You may also want to minimize distractions and provide them with simple instructions.
And remember to incorporate memory tools such as calendars and to-do-list and setting alarms.
Communication Strategies for Dementia Care
As dementia progresses, patients may have increased difficulties communicating (expressing themselves and understanding what others are saying). Due to confusion and forgetfulness, they might talk less, repeat themselves, have difficulty constructing logical statements, or become delusional, overly suspicious, and paranoid.
However, you can help them manage communication challenges by adopting the following dementia care strategies:
- Treat them as adults
- Pay attention to their emotions
- Be supportive and plan enough time for interaction
- Get their attention by removing distractions when interacting
- Respect their personal space preferences
- Encourage them to express themselves by listening attentively to them
- Be understanding and patient with them, and don't take their behavior personally
- Use praise and encouragement
Providing Emotional Comfort and Engagement
Besides creating familiar routines and environments, providing emotional comfort to persons with dementia and encouraging positive engagement are key to managing their condition.
Here are some dementia care tips to guide you:
- Take note of any signs of depression and encourage them to talk about their feelings and seek medical help
- Create time for positive and comforting activities together
- Encourage them to maintain an active social life
- Avoid calling them out on their behavior and be understanding instead
- Validate their feelings and compliment them often to help counter any self-esteem issues
- Encourage them to exercise regularly
If you want more help caring for a loved one, discover our tailored dementia care services for your family's peace of mind. Elite Home Health Care has the expertise and resources you need. Reach out today and bring in a highly trained caregiver who will provide quality care with an extra personal touch that comes from having them right there in the home!
Written by: Leah Ganz
Leah Ganz, RN, BSN is the Director of Patient Services at Elite Home Health Care. She has an extensive background in homecare and previously worked in various specialties including pediatrics, pain managemnet and internal medicine. She oversees allpatient services across Elite's departments.