Patients come in all shapes and sizes. At some
point you will likely be caring for someone with dementia. This word describes
a set of symptoms, which may include day-to-day memory loss, difficulty
concentrating and planning, losing track of the day or time and having problems
judging distances and seeing objects in three dimensions. These symptoms tend
to affect people differently, especially in the early stages, and they often
pose challenges for caregivers. Unfortunately, many times dementia is a progressive
biological brain disorder making it more difficult to manage behavior over
time. Additionally, individuals suffering from it can experience mood swings,
and dementia may even ultimately change personality.
According to the Alzheimer's Association,
those suffering from this form of dementia may experience anger and aggression,
anxiety and agitation, hallucinations, depression, and suspicions and delusions
as the disease progresses. It's helpful to have strategies in place for
yourself and family members to help deal with these behaviors as they occur.
This helps to reduce your own feelings of frustration as your patient’s
personality changes overtime.
— If your patient exhibits physical or emotional outbursts, it helps
them when you remain calm and reassuring. In some cases, your patient may want
space to cool down or may react better to distraction. Look for an immediate
cause that triggered the behavior so you can avoid this in the future. However,
if your safety is threatened, it's important to move out of the way or leave
— Your client may act as though someone is trying to hurt them or may accuse
others of stealing their possessions. While it may be your first reaction to
reason with them, it's more important to provide comfort and not take the
accusation personally. Distract your client with another activity and look for
the underlying cause.
— As the disease progresses, your client may begin to repeat words or
actions. If this behavior is not bothersome, it's important to allow them to
continue. Otherwise, you may be able to alter the behavior by changing the subject
or distracting your client with simple activities, such as putting on shoes,
folding laundry or taking a walk.
Wandering — This is a classic sign of dementia and occurs when your client walks away from home unattended at the risk of becoming lost. Your first step is to engage the family and protective services to find your client. Strategies to help prevent this include looking for the immediate cause and then removing it. If your client tries to leave home, reassure them and distract them with another activity. Speak with the family about installing additional locks on the doors that are out of reach of the client. Your client requires exercise as well, so ensuring regular walks may help reduce their desire to leave. Ask the family to inform their neighbors, so they can also be watchful and report if your client leaves home.
As difficult as it is to understand and cope with behaviors your client exhibits as they travel this journey through dementia, it is that much more challenging to family members who watch their loved one change before their eyes. It's helpful to remember they aren't acting this way on purpose, and by staying calm and speaking softly you help to reduce the potential for escalation. It's also helpful to respond to your client’s emotion and not their behavior. For instance, if they continually ask about a specific individual, they may just need reassurance this person is healthy and safe and don't really need to know where they are. Avoid reasoning with your client as this often leads to frustration for both of you since they won't understand lengthy explanations.
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