Author: Nisha Sharma
Published: Apr 9 2013
Dementia has affected hundreds of families throughout the United States and the world. When dementia closes in on a loved one, many family members become confused because they may not know how to deal with the brain condition. Though there has been significant research on Alzheimer and related dementia, no drug has been discovered that can cure dementia. This calls for increased understanding and care to those with the medical condition. Here are tips for how to care for a loved one with dementia.
Family members should learn the three stages of the condition. This progressive, degenerative disease affects the brain resulting in impaired memory, behavior and thinking. Dementia is the most common form of debilitating brain condition.
The first stage takes 2-4 years leading up to the diagnosis. At this stage, it is normally hard to determine if the individual has dementia, an unexplained drug interaction or urinary tract infection as they all produce symptoms of agitation and confusion. In this stage, individuals who have had sharp minds begin to get agitated, anxious and confused because of an inability to control their memories and actions.
During the second stage, the individual will experience difficulty performing daily activities such as bathing, dressing and brushing teeth because they cannot remember the series of steps involved in such procedures.
In the third and final stage, patients become unable to recognize family members, take care of themselves or communicate with words. They may also suffer from incontinence or difficulty swallowing. At this stage, the person may require assistance with dressing, bathing and using the toilet among other activities. Despite the loss of cognition, dementia patients appreciate kindness, understanding, help, comfort and love from friends and family.
Whether the patient is in a nursing home or at home with the family, let them help in doing simple duties in any way they can. If at home, let them sprinkle sugar on apples for pie or brush a family member's hair as they used to do. If they are in a care facility, family members should talk to the dementia patients and let them know when they need a hug or are tired. People should let their loved ones know how they are feeling and ask for comfort.
Provide comfort by understanding the patient's need for routine. Although a loved one may not remember daily routines, bring them back to some of the familiar comforts by trying to remind them of their old familiar ways like the walk with a family dog, their favorite music, and bedtime routine. Take them systematically through the procedures.
There are times when those with dementia find special comfort in the simple routines they used to do. They may find such routines refreshing, productive and purposeful. Those living with dementia patients should establish a safe walking route with a companion to guide them. Care facilities often have safe walking units with enclosed gardens for residents to use when weather conditions allow. As part of the visits, plan a walk with the family member in the care facility. Make the walk a predictable routine that the family member can count on. Make routine visits preferably at the same time of the day. Bring the patients' favorite family pet. Predictable routines provide comfort because they reduce confusion.
Dementia patients need to feel that their families need them even when they cannot do certain duties as they used to. Shower them with comforting words.
It may be hard to reach a loved one with end-stage dementia but expressing love would help them know that their loved ones are there no matter what.
Nisha represents a site called MHA.org.uk. She enjoys writing about elderly health and dementia care. Feel free to visit her site for more information on specialist dementia care.
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