The World Health Organization’s latest figures show that dementia affects more than 50 million people in the world today.
Moreover, there are over ten million new cases being reported each year. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.
Dementia typically affects the elderly. And with the average life expectancy increasing, it means that more and more people are finding themselves dealing with dementia in a parent or a loved one. Since no one is quite prepared for dealing with dementia, it is important for any person who finds themselves caring for such individuals to equip themselves with the necessary knowledge that will help make their caregiving much less stressful for both them and their patients.
The following is a caregiver’s guide to dementia. Read on and learn more about how to deal with dementia.
More about Dementia
Dementia is a chronic or progressive syndrome that is characterized by a deterioration in cognitive function – the ability to process thought – beyond what is expected from normal aging.
As such, it affects the person’s comprehension, thinking, calculation, language, learning capacity, and judgment. However, it does not affect their consciousness. The result of a cognitive function impairment is often a deterioration in emotional control which breeds behaviors that are uncharacteristic of the individual.
Dementia is one of the leading causes of disability in elderly people worldwide. The effects of this syndrome are not only overwhelming to them, but also to their caregivers as well. And because dementia is still not well understood by most people in addition to a lack of dementia training for caregivers, dealing with it has physical, psychological, and economic consequences on all parties involved.
Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia, in itself, is not a specific disease but rather a collective term for a group of diseases associated with impaired cognitive function. Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia with about 70 percent of all dementia cases being Alzheimer’s.
The most common symptoms include:
- Short term memory loss
- Trouble communicating
- Mood changes
- Weight loss
- Behavior changes often characterized by aggression and paranoia. These are, in fact, some of the most common Alzheimer behaviors.
What Causes Dementia?
Since dementia is the collective term for various neurological disorders, it can be caused by various factors.
Nevertheless, studies show that some types of dementia are genetic such as Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia. Some other forms of dementia such as dementia pugilistica are usually as a result of direct brain injury. Oxygen deprivation is also known to increase the risk of dementia. Tumors that compress the brain tissue can also cause this syndrome.
Understanding the Symptoms of Dementia
If you think that you might be dealing with dementia in a parent or another loved one, it is important to learn how to recognize the early signs so that you are not only able to find the best care for them, but also so that you can learn how to deal with dementia by undertaking dementia training for caregivers.
The signs include:
This is the most prevalent symptom in all types of dementia and is one of the most characteristic Alzheimer behaviors. It is often characterized by the individual telling the same story over and over, mixing up or forgetting names, asking the same repeatedly, and missing appointments.
People with dementia have difficulty finding the right words to use and often replace with vaguely related words. For instance, they might refer to a car as ‘the driving thing’, or even resort to pointing at it since they cannot find the right word to use. Over time as the dementia progresses, the replacement words become more and more nonsensical.
For example, a person who is usually courteous may start becoming more and more insensitive while a formerly outgoing individual may become shy or nervous.
They may become socially withdrawn, unhappy, and have constant mood swings.
Trouble with Routine Tasks
They will start having difficulties accomplishing everyday tasks such as cooking, where they might leave the activity and start doing something entirely different. Losing items also starts becoming more and more common.
One of the tell-tale signs of dementia is the individual starts becoming confused or anxious in unfamiliar places. Also, they can even get lost in areas that they are familiar with.
The above are tell-tale signs that you just might be dealing with dementia in a loved one.
Alzheimer’s Communication ( How to Talk to Someone with Dementia )
Learning how to talk to someone with dementia is essential in helping you provide better care for your patient.
When talking to them, it is best to do it in a place that does not have many simulations. As such, talk to them in quiet areas that do not have distractions such as TV or radio.
Body language is also an essential part of alzheimer’s communication. Dementia patients can understand body language better than words, as such, try and use gestures to help you express your words while maintaining a relaxed posture.
Likewise, you should use a calm, clear, and expressive voice while talking slowly. Keep your words and sentences short and simple. Also, make use of pauses in between sentences so that the individual can easily understand what you are trying to communicate to them.
When asking them questions, avoid coming across as interrogative as that might distress them. You also do not want to use baby language on them; maintain their dignity. Thus, utilize ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions as much as you can while avoiding ‘either/or’ choices. E.g. Do not ask them “Would you like coffee or tea?” Rather ask, “Would you like coffee?” and if they say that they would not like it, then ask them if they would like tea.
When taking care of a person with dementia, it is important to take care of yourself as well. Therefore, take regular breaks and delegate the duty to a family member or friend temporarily.
In addition to doing things that you like during those breaks, attending carer’s forums and speaking to other people who are also in your position will prove to be invaluable.
Dementia Care Options
Since people with dementia need full-time support, you will either have to dedicate all your time towards taking care of them or take them to nursing care of dementia patients.
In addition to learning how to take care of them, you will need to redesign your living space to make it suitable for someone living with dementia. Consider:
- Decorating with objects that they are attached to that can trigger memories such mementos and photographs from earlier years.
- Label things that your patient needs to use.
- Serve foods and use cutlery that is designed for people with dementia.
Unfortunately, dementia will continue progressing and it might reach a point where you will need to consider professional help such as that found in a nursing care of dementia patients.
Dementia Care Home
When you are no longer able to meet the needs of your patient, you might have to think about moving them to nursing care for dementia patients which are equipped with the necessary resources to provide the best care to the individual.
There, they will be provided with around the clock care by professional caregivers who are trained and experienced in providing care for such individuals. This ensures that the individual is always comfortable. You will get peace of mind knowing that they are well taken care of as you handle other responsibilities.
Some of the effects of moving a person with dementia include the initial disorientation the patient will have due to the new surroundings, and your inability to see them 24/7. Nonetheless, despite the effects of moving a person with dementia, a nursing home will be able to meet their needs probably more than you effectively can.
Are you about to start giving care to someone with dementia? Educate yourself on the best ways to provide them with the best care. Use this caregiver’s guide to dementia as a start while doing further research. Nonetheless, caregiving is an intensive duty that will require your undivided attention. If you are not in a position to, consider taking them to a nursing home where they will find the best environment for their needs.