An individual with dementia care questions or those providing medical help to those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease know that care taking can be a labor-intensive and stressful endeavor. Primary care givers should allow themselves to seek professional help, whether it be in-home care, with the help of family members, or in a specialized medical or living facility. When caring for an individual with dementia, care takers have to be the mind and voice of their patient, even when the individual is confused or upset. This can be a mentally-difficult process for many people, and caregivers should allow themselves breaks, and meet with family, friends, counselors, or religious communities for support.
Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Care
Dementia is an unspecified set of symptoms that can include memory loss, confusion, difficulties with critical thinking and problem solving, or language issues. Dementia occurs when the brain is damaged due to certain forms of disease, like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, or other disorders.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease in which, over time, the proteins build up in the brain and destroy brain cells. The most recognizable symptom is dementia. During the process of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms of language loss, mood swings, anger, depression and disorientation worsen over time. This makes caring for a patient part of a long-form process that struggles to manage a decline of health over an unspecified period of time.
Caring for an Alzheimer’s Patient
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease relies on patients, repeating information, and solid communication with the patient and their medical team. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatments to prevent the worsening of symptoms and activities one can do to support active brain health.
Initially, the caregiver should speak to their loved one’s medical team about the prognosis of the disease and any overall diagnosis. In the first, mildest form of Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms overall are not extreme and not as rapid a change from normal behavior as what is associated as “dementia.” These symptoms include memory loss and small changes in the personality such as forgetfulness or lack of focus.
A person in the mild stage of Alzheimer’s disease may be prescribed a drug to help lessen with memory problems and deal with underlying depression and anxiety. Providing a list of all the patient’s medication will help in determining appropriate medical care. The correct drugs treat the initial and moderate forms of Alzheimer’s disease to improve the quality of life, especially every-day tasks like making recipes, going shopping, or completing hobbies. These medications provide a boost in concentration and motivation, which can make care taking much easier.
Keeping an Active Mind
A vital part of the caring process, when coupled with appropriate medical advice and the proper pharmaceutical treatments, is focusing on ways to promote the patient’s independence and focus on how the patient can live their most happy life. In many cases, speaking with trusted counseling professionals would be the best idea. Counselors have seen these problems before, and will be able to point patients and their loved ones towards great organizations and programs that offer aid and support. Mental health is still a vital part of the healing process, both for the patient and caregiver. If appropriate, speak with a psychiatrist or counselor and attempt goal-based cognitive therapies or talking in group sessions with others in similar situations.
There are others ways to help the patient dealing with memory loss in their healthcare journey. Every person wants to be as independent as possible and live their lives with dignity despite any changes in memory. Caregivers can be support systems for their loved ones by providing that important necessity: company. It helps when dementia care professionals focus on mental stimulation, whether that be in storytelling and reminiscing about the past or with reading. Another popular solution is number puzzles like Sudoku or word puzzles like crosswords and word searches.
Keeping the Schedule Consistent
Keeping a consistent schedule can help those with dementia or Alzheimer’s patients in managing their agitated or aggressive behaviors due to stress. These negative behaviors are signs of distress—that the individual is in pain, or that they are frustrated and cannot communicate. It’s important to offer options to address specific needs. By better understanding the natural schedules of the patient, a caregiver can distinguish when the individual is more calm in the morning or agitated at night, or vice versa.
The comforts of routine become more important for the patient, making their day more predictable, stable, and less-confusing. Following a morning routine with certain activities planned for certain times. One patient, for example, at breakfast every morning at 9:30 AM and watched television from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, when it was time for music. That was a schedule that worked for him and his caregivers.
Work to provide a level of consistency for your loved one. Create limited options for the patient to give them illusion of choice, for example laying out two shirts for them to choose between and picking out the pants for them. Offer the patient a variety of dining options, within reason, because loss of appetite is also part of the dementia process. Scheduling doctor’s appointments during the same days of the week or at the same times can help mitigate confusion. Most important, however, is treating the individual like a person—include them in social interaction, exercise, conversation, art, or other activities they have always enjoyed.
Dementia Care and Degradation
Perhaps the most difficult part of dealing with Alzheimer’s disease is dealing with the degradation of personality over time. It’s hard to see these changes: both decentering from the patient’s point of view, and psychologically hard for any family member or caregiver.
As Alzheimer’s disease worsens over time, symptoms of moderate dementia increase to more noticeable confusion. These patients may have problems with discerning history from reality. Those with dementia have problems in their sleep cycle and with other important physical skills, including incontinence. Personality changes can become angry or violent. In these situations, more extensive drugs like antipsychotics may be used, as well as other maintenance that may help with easing mental problems and promote better daily living.
It is important that when dealing with anger that the caregiver avoids anger or frustration. Dementia patients are showing frustration because they are in pain or cannot adequately communicate their concerns. Sometimes, it is vital to take ten seconds to step back, practice meditative breathing, or even leave the room for a few moments. Focus on how the patient is feeling and provide emotion-focused support. Remove dangerous items from easy access.
An individual wondering about dementia care is taking the best first step by reading this article: searching for best information in order to make a forward-moving plan of action.
Remember, the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is similar to the difference between squares and rectangles. Dementia is a symptom from a larger-scoping disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, or other neurological or health disorders.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Not all dementia is Alzheimer’s. Both, however, are degenerative cognitive diseases that include confusion, loss of independence, mood swings, and disorientation. These conditions worsen over time with the progression of the disease.
Caring for a patient with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is a very hard but rewarding process with ups and downs. Primary care givers should allow themselves to seek professional help, whether it be in-home care, with the help of family members, or in a specialized medical or senior living facility. A caregiver cannot do everything. There are times where an untrained person cannot cope with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care on their own. Look for ways to make the process easier, like appropriate medical care, great scheduling, or fulfilling mental activities. Professional spaces exist to provide support for family members to ease the burden of a busy life.