Providing Proper Dementia Care
Many senior citizens have been diagnosed with dementia. How do you react when your elderly parent gets diagnosed with this condition? Maybe your first reaction is to bring them in to stay with you. However, people get tired over time, as caring for people with dementia isn’t a joke!
If you’re finding it difficult to care for an elderly person with dementia, it may be the right time to consider helping them transition into an assisted living facility or memory care or dementia facilities near you. An assisted living facility provides dementia patients with the help they need to progress and move their lives forward. Convincing a parent that they may need to relocate to dementia caring facilities may be the most challenging task for you. However, don’t give up on trying as it may be the best solution.
It’s important to note that dementia isn’t a disease. It’s just a general term for a group of warning signs affecting memory and thinking abilities to an extent of interfering with one's daily life. While it isn’t a disease, but several elderly diseases may lead to dementia. Although dementia involves memory loss, this sign doesn’t necessarily mean one has dementia.
How to Provide Dementia Care to Elderly?
Caring for elderly parents gives us peace of mind, especially by knowing that we can provide them with the necessary and deserved proper care and support as they transition into the final chapters of their lives. However, supporting an elderly loved one with dementia also has its challenges. Resistance is one great hallmark of dementia, and that's why adult children of dementia sufferers always find themselves seeking help.
Dementia care is overwhelming, yet it may not be as challenging as you would anticipate. Regardless of whether you care for an elderly parent or a relative with dementia, the correct caregiver mentality is urgent to progress.
Ensuring you are informed about the latest news and evidence-based care practices related to dementia and maintaining a positive practical mentality enables you to keep up a component of control as you transition from their child into their parental figure and guardian. It can alleviate the astounding difficulties you experience and furthermore support you with the important consideration and decisions a caregiver must embrace.
The following tips will help you provide even better care for your elderly loved one with dementia.
- Contact dementia support groups
Regardless of whether you are providing care for somebody in your family, or whether you are a trained caregiver, never be hesitant to request help. There are numerous support groups for dementia caregivers. Care groups enable caregivers to vent in a group setting with individuals who understand the expectations of you and share similar experiences. It likewise enables caregivers to hear first-hand about the caregiving techniques that are working well for different guardians and find out about nearby dementia facilities. Providing care for somebody with dementia isn't simple and there will be a time when expert caregivers need a hand or somebody to converse with.
- Care compassionately and empathetically
Dementia care begins with sympathy and compassion. This remains constant in every single human relationship, yet might be particularly even more important for dementia caregivers. For instance, although you may feel like you are treating your parent as though they are your child, it is important to keep a watchful eye and to ask them about their whereabouts. Individuals with more progressed stages of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s may be prone to wandering and getting lost.
- Be realistic and sincere in your care
Be reasonable about your expectations of yourself and how you measure your accomplishments as a dementia caregiver. Recognize your great efforts and be proud of yourself for agreeing, cheering, supporting, and sheltering your loved one.
Most experienced dementia caregivers will disclose to you that the individual they care for has great days and terrible days. Attempt your best to cultivate the great days and even the great minutes for the individual with dementia, and don't attempt to drive them. Additionally, be reasonable about the course of the malady. Keep in mind that most kinds of dementia, including Alzheimer's, are irreversible and dynamic. Dementia will, in general, deteriorate after some time and there is no known treatment as of this time to reverse its course.
- Understand the personality changes in the elderly with dementia
Memory loss is a great dementia indicator. Be that as it may, a few sorts of dementia, especially frontotemporal dementia, express themselves as character changes as opposed to memory loss. The indications rely upon the zones of the cerebrum that is influenced by the illness. In any event, when memory loss is the clearest side effect, the individual with dementia is encountering a neurological decay that can prompt a large group of different issues. A patient may create troublesome practices and states of mind. For instance, a demure and legitimate grandmother may start to revile like a mariner. Or a man of honor may come to accept that his family is plotting against him or experience different dreams and mental trips.
In the most progressed phases of most kinds of dementia, patients become incapable of taking care of activities of daily living, (for example, dressing and toileting) autonomously. They may progress toward becoming non-open, unfit to perceive friends and family, and even incapable of moving about.
- Understand the cause of aggressive behavior
Dementia often comes with challenging behavior. The confusion, anger, fears, and paranoia that seniors with dementia have tends to often result in violent and aggressive actions.
Communication challenges are one of the most upsetting characteristics of caring for seniors with dementia. The best response to dementia aggression is to identify the cause. Once you get ascertained that nobody will encounter danger, try shifting your focus. Try as much as possible to speak in a calm reassuring manner.
However, avoid engaging in an argument that creates further aggression. The best way to curb the aggressive behavior is to get rid of the word “no” from your vocabulary when speaking with your dementia parent.
- Consider your loved one’s preferences
You may be unable to meet all of their preferences. However, it’s important to consider them and to try your best to fulfil as many preferences as may be realistic, without always compromising. In case your elderly loved one finds it difficult to understand you, simplify your explanations.
- Avoid distractions in communication
Look for a conducive place free from distractions. This allows your loved one to concentrate all of their energy on the conversation.
- Power away from power struggles
Don’t nag or push your parents. Doing so will only further damage your relationship. Be careful with what you say and how you behave so they do not feel inferior. It is important to keep an open and mutual relationship so that they feel comfortable seeking support. It may be difficult for them to observe you caring for them when they spent decades caring for you. Imagine how you would feel if you were diagnosed with dementia and were now dependent on your child.
Common dementia behaviors and dementia care practices
Elderly with dementia usually act differently from their older selves and this can be challenging for the family caregivers. The change of behavior may stem from a variety of reasons, such as cognitive decline, memory loss, anxiety, and the use of excessive medicines. Your loved one suffering from dementia may be experiencing loss of neurons (different parts of the brain). The change in behaviors you observe in an elderly loved one with dementia depends on the part of the brain that is losing neurons.
For instance, the frontal lobes are the brain regions just behind the eyes. These lobes concentrate our focus; boost our motivation and allow us to pay attention to other personality aspects. Therefore, when there is a reduction of the frontal lobe cells, planning and focusing becomes increasingly problematic, especially for elderly with dementia. Seniors who experience such conditions may become less motivated and more passive. Besides, the frontal lobes play an important role of impulse control and management. This, therefore, explains why an elderly with a frontal lobe deficit may be perceived as rude and insensitive.
Here are a some of the most common behaviors exhibited by elderly with dementia:
Dementia and Sleeplessness
Both caregivers and people with dementia need rest. When we do not sleep enough, then we may feel restless and agitated. Elderly adults with dementia may likewise experience changes in their rest plan or experience issues with dozing off for those key hours of shut-eye. Rest changes appear to result from the illness' effect on the mind. However, the particular causes are obscure. Therefore, if the one you are taking care of is waking continually and spending long hours without sleeping, there are a couple considerations for you before opting to give your loved one even more medications. Such considerations may include:
- Limit daytime naps
- Ensure that the senior's bedroom is noise-free and restful
- Establish the sources of pain or medications causing weakness
- Take your elderly outdoors regularly or take him or her for a walk
- Make a proper schedule for sleeping and waking up
Dementia and Wandering
It’s common to hear silver alerts on missing seniors. Of all the dementia behaviors, wandering is reportedly the most dangerous and frightening. Our elderly loved ones with dementia may increasingly become confused and can easily go missing once they wander away from home. This is despite the fact that they’ve spent multiple decades in the same homes. Once you conclude that your loved one can’t safely stay alone, make the home escape-proof. You may be attentive, but you can’t keep an eye on someone the whole day. Staying vigilant with locks, secure doors, wander guard, and security cameras can help improve the security and safety of your elderly loved one.
Sometimes, we wonder why seniors with dementia wander. But it’s important to note that their divergence has a purpose. This is mainly due to their memory loss, confusion, disorientation, and abandonment. To effectively provide dementia care, understand the underlying causes and plan accordingly. What if your loved one feels the need to go to work, complete a task or visit a doctor or friend? They may even claim that they want to go home and forget that they have relocated to now live with you.
There are various action plans you can consider to provide dementia care to your loved one and to help curb their behavior. It all begins with understand their motivation for their behavior.
Dementia and Malnutrition
Eating either excessively or too little can be a significant issue when someone has Alzheimer's Disease, which is a form of dementia. There are many negative outcomes of poor sustenance, including weight reduction, fractiousness, restlessness, bladder or gut issues, and bewilderment. If an elderly with dementia suddenly develops strange eating habits, it could be due to various reasons, including:
- Taste and smell functions; these decline as we age
- Poor management of utensils
- Visual impairments
- Dental problems
- Lack of exercises
- The food is being cooked by someone whom they frankly don’t like
Dementia and Phobia of Bathing
Another normal and troublesome conduct displayed by senior citizens with dementia is fear of bathing. To curb this poor hygiene habit, try to encourage and remind your loved one about the importance of great cleanliness, for example, brushing their teeth, toileting, washing, and trying on a new outfit. For elderly who have a more progressed form of dementia and require more support with activities of daily living, these extremely private and pivotal exercises can be quite shaming. Consider how you would feel if your child needed to undress and wash you? Would you feel humiliated or embarrassed, and in some cases even startled? Hence, washing time can frequently be upsetting for both the caregiver and the elderly.
As the caregiver, you ought to explore if your loved one feels safe and comfortable, and check whether you can help.
- Does the individual feel endangered?
- Is it accurate to say that they are ready to see and appreciate the genuine profundity of water?
- Have they been shown the protection and snatch bars? Is the water excessively hot or excessively cold?
- It is safe to say that they feel awkward being washed in a medical clinic or getting uncovered in front of outsiders?
There are approaches to help elderly adults with dementia from becoming increasingly agreeable when bathing. Ask them to select the aromatic body wash or shampoo/conditioner. Try folding a warm towel over their shoulders and allow them to relax and sit for some time, as they embrace the shower time. Try to discover their inclinations, such as when they prefer to shower. Try to schedule according to their prior routines and their preferences.
Dementia and Word Repetition (Redundancy)
Consistent reiteration of words (perseveration) or other excess practices can be aggravating for both the caregiver and individual with dementia. People with dementia frequently rehash similar activities or verbiage since they can't recall subtleties or occasions, for example, if they adjusted the agency or revealed to you that the postal worker was coming. The elderly are frequently only attempting to look for or grant some data. Because of memory loss and intellectual hindrance, there may actually be a significant idea within what they are trying to share with you. While this conduct is typically innocuous, it tends to tire the caregivers. At times, monotonous practices can be activated by uneasiness, dread, weariness, or different factors in the environment.
Strategies to reduce this repetition include:
- Be patient and provide comfort
- Avoid reminding them that they keep on asking the same question
- Try to help them refocus their attention if their minds tend to wander
- Test our new activities or snacks to divert their attention
- Avoid discussing plans with them to avoid confusing them further
- Use notes and other reminders to alert them of dinner and other events
- Be attentive and recognize the most repetitive actions, as they may be trying to share their important needs
Dementia and Hearing Loss
Most people encounter hearing impairment with age. However, individuals with dementia fail to comprehend what’s being said. It isn’t exactly a hearing disability but a condition that happens with age and repetitive use of medicines. In the beginning, they may only miss a word or two, but after some time, they will only understand one or two words.
Dementia and Hallucinations
Elderly in the later phases of dementia may experience hallucinations. Mind flights are the impression of something that doesn't exist. They may hear voices or see visuals that are not there, or they might be persuaded by a smell undetected by any other individual.
A few mental figures can be startling, and others may include standard dreams of individuals, items, or encounters from quite a while ago. Declining vision, restricted profundity observation, and the confusion of shading can be startling and add to visualizations. Objects and structures cause perplexity; for instance, seeing an object and demanding that it was an individual. Prescriptions and torment may likewise be a reason.
To support their dementia care management, remember to consider the following:
- Don’t argue or deny whatever they’re seeing, smelling, or hearing
- Investigate their claims
- Cover the mirrors or remove them as your elderly loved one may think that he or she is seeing a stranger
- Comfort them and help them stay calm
- If the hallucinations are severe, call the physician
Dementia and Incontinence
Loss of bowel or bladder control is one of the most challenging situations to deal with as a caregiver who cares for an elderly senior with dementia. To mitigate the problem, it is important to encourage your loved one to visit their physician. The physician will first need to ensure that there is no physiological ailment for this situation, such as reaction to a medication. Other concerns, such as Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) often go unrecognized in elderly people with dementia until they became more severe. This is due to the pain they may be going through due to other symptoms that they may be unable to recognize or use as the reason for the pain. They may also experience difficulty with verbalizing their concerns. If your loved one is experiencing incontinence concerns, then consider the following recommendations:
- Provide elastic clothing that can easily get removed
- Make the bathrooms easily usable by keeping the doors open and installing good lighting
- Reduce fluids before bed
- Create a consistent washroom schedule, for instance, after every three hours
Dementia and Expletives
Just like toddlers, senior citizens with dementia can mention certain words and phrases that shouldn’t be mentioned in public. Their social awareness and inhibitions may diminish. This results in inappropriate and unexplained expletives that tend to be offensive. However, it’s important to note that these people may not be aware of this, and the caregiver needs to apologize for them when such situations arise.
Dementia and Anger and Aggression
Anger, agitation, and aggression may cause dementia caregivers to feel frustrated and bewildered. The repetitive behaviors may also cause restlessness. Furthermore, the situation may deteriorate as dementia progresses. Fear and fatigue are some of the factors that trigger aggression and agitation. This will often happen when the person with dementia feels that self-control and control of the environment is being snatched away.
To reduce this agitation and aggression;
- Comfort and assure your elderly loved ones that you are there to protect them
- Avoid negative reactions and frustrations
- Provide positive affirmations and spend quality social time with them
- Acknowledge their anger and frustration over the loss of control
- Keep dangerous objects far from them
- Limit the noise in the room
How Dementia Patients Are Treated in The Memory Care Unit in Assisted Living Facilities
For most caregivers, once dementia deteriorates to a certain level, they may need to seek extensive care that family members may no longer be able to provide. They, therefore, end up seeking long term dementia care facilities, a nursing home or an assisted living community.
Learn more: Assisted Living vs Nursing Home: Overview
The support and care provided in some of these facilities are quite amazing. Within the assisted living facilities, there are special programs meant to rejuvenate the cognitive powers of the patients. These programs allow dementia patients to express their needs in healthy ways.
Learn more: When Is It Time to Move to Assisted Living?
Assisted living communities may offer sufficient care for patients in the early stages of dementia. Though they may not have any medical issues, they may need more intensive support for daily activities. Assisted living facilities have private studios, and private or shared apartments for dementia patients. Besides, the facility has caring staff available 24-hours a day. Also, most assisted living facilities provide transportation to and from doctors’ appointments and social events. Moreover, the facilities have dining halls and residential activity centers where senior community members tend to gather to eat their meals in a communal manner enjoying each other’s company.
Memory care units offer treatment intended to stimulate the dementia patient’s memory and slow down dementia’s progress. Activities involved in treatment involve arts, music, games, and crafts. The memory care unit is mainly specialized for dementia patients who need a high level of skilled care. Since patients have different needs, the unit has both shared and private living spaces. They may even exist as a wing with assisted living facilities.
Caring for seniors with dementia is quite challenging. Some of the most challenging aspects of dementia patient care are the changes in behavior and personality. However, you can do your best to provide care for your loved one by being patient, flexible, and compassionate. Show them love and don’t let them feel as if you are taking their control away from them. If the dementia behaviors are extreme, consider contacting assisted living homes and support groups for help.
Besides, It’s important to remember that dementia can’t make elderly people lesser than they ought to be. How would you feel if your children treated you as a child? By placing yourself in such a position, you will better understand the condition. Be respectful to them.
If you want to look for a memory care nearby unit or assisted living facility with a memory care unit for the elderly, use our online locator that will help you find the best dementia care facility for your loved one.
About the Author:
"Proper Dementia Care and How to Support Dementia Behavior" is authored by Anisha Rao, MPP, Healthcare Consultant, Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Healthcare Professional. Anisha holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Health Administration and Public Policy, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and a Minor in Management of Aging Services. Anisha has extensive experience in Healthcare Services and Aging issues, including dementia care, senior health, and nursing home care. Anisha is passionate about ensuring seniors receive the best care possible and empowering seniors to become more involved in their care planning decisions.