Assisted Services has specialized in dementia care and working with senior adults that have memory issues since 1994. Dementia is very different from other chronic health conditions. It can be scary, confusing, and frustrating for the individual and caregivers. For caregivers, dementia care is among the most intensive caregiving there is. We, at Assisted Services, are just as involved in caring for your loved one as we are in helping you and your family. Often, families just need a sounding board. We get calls from families who feel alone, overwhelmed, alarmed, panicked, and don’t know how to handle these new situations or the day-to-day care.
Things we have learned about Dementia Care
….and things you might need to know about Dementia Care
- This is probably the hardest diagnosis for families to accept and understand.
- Some people are good at covering up dementia.
- At times, the individual is in another reality or another point in time.
- Apply discernment; identify what their state of mind is and know the techniques to use in engaging them.
- Reasoning and arguing doesn’t work…you’ll never win.
- Go where they are. Ask them to tell you where they are at the moment.
- Keep them engaged in conversation by asking questions.
- Don’t startle them, always approach from the front. Keep your voice low.
- If they get agitated, changing the environment can sometimes break that behavior.
- Think outside of the box. If you are having trouble getting them out of bed, dressed, or whatever you need them to do, set up plans and suggest the need to get ready for a visit with someone special to them.
- Get them involved in an activity or give them something to do that involves light, physical movement, or engage their help to accomplish a task, i.e., counting coins, dusting.
- Provide stimulation by playing music they like, visiting a museum, creating art, gardening, or interaction with animals.
- Don’t lose your sense of humor; they haven’t. Draw it out of them.
- We recommend an ID bracelet in case they walk out and get lost.
- The disease begins with memory loss; however, not all memory problems are associated with dementia, i.e., urinary infection or medication interaction.
- Advanced cases of dementia can lead to paranoia, hallucinations, loss of comprehension, and loss of motor skills.
- “Sundowning” is what is known as a dementia symptom that exhibits as: increased agitation, confusion, and hyperactivity beginning in the late afternoon, building throughout the evening. Days and nights can get mixed up, and lead to pacing. Doors should be secured to prevent wandering.
- Eventually, the brain is unable to tell the body what to do.
Dementia Is A Progressive Disease
Dementia is a progressive DISEASE that changes the way a person acts. Behaviors can be different for every person. A startling 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have some form of this cognitive impairment. Once a person reaches 85 years of age, the percentage goes to 50 percent. No one knows what brings on the disease, and currently there’s no known cure- however, the medical community is making advances in diagnosing the different forms of dementia. There are medications that can retard the advancement of the disease in some individuals. This disease is progressive, and symptoms may go unrecognized for several years.
Caring for the Caregiver
Primary caregivers must learn to take care of themselves or they will not be able to take care of others. Caregivers face a number of challenges. These include: learning basic healthcare skills, coping with physical, emotional, and financial stress, understanding legal options, assessing the service system, and most importantly, learning how to balance conflicting demands while dealing with potentially stressful family dynamics. Some caregivers handle these challenges better than others. Caregiving responsibilities can lead to feelings of love, generosity, and a strengthening of family ties. Some caregivers are thankful for the opportunities to provide care and to share in the journey of the care receiver’s life. For others, these responsibilities can be overwhelming, and lead to isolation, physical illness, financial devastation, and even loss of employment. In severe cases, caregiver exhaustion can lead to abuse or financial exploitation of the care receiver. Caregiving is a process that often involves a tremendous sacrifice in time and energy. Many individuals will, at some point in their later years, be both caregiver and care receiver, so it is important to understand the caregiving process.
Dementia Care & Education
We at Assisted Services, Inc. continue to expand our understanding of dementia by attending workshops and seminars. When educating primary caregivers and family members, we share what we do know about the disease. Education is the best way for us to help our caregivers help you. Some of the tools we use are monthly newsletters and team meetings with our staff.
Resources & Recommended Reading
- Creating Moments of Joy: A book by Jolene Brackney
- Alzheimer’s Association of North Texas: Offers free caregiver workshops.
- GAP Clinic (Geriatric Assessment and Planning Program of UNT) –Provides primary care and geriatric consultations for complex or chronic conditions.
- The 36-Hour Day: A family guide to caring for people who have Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias and memory loss.
- Untangling Alzheimer’s: The guide for families and professionals, a conversation in caregiving.