If you are a nurse or someone caring for an individual with dementia, it’s important to understand some critical areas regarding care. Personalized care is the most critical factor, as each individual with dementia have their own likes, dislikes, and routines that make them more comfortable.
In order to provide person-centered, effective care, the following tips will help you maintain a higher quality of life for the affected individual.
Tip #1: Be Aware That Communication Will Change
As dementia progresses, effective communication becomes more and more challenging. When you’re trying to maintain the individual’s focus, limit distractions around you. Meaning, don’t try to explain something to them when you have the television blaring in the background. This is simply too overwhelming and can lead to greater problematic behaviors.
It’s important to learn that in the later stages, around 90 percent of communication will be non-verbal. Body language and tone of voice should not be underestimated. Speak in a clear and calm fashion, allowing the individual to process information at their own pace.
Tip #2: Learn the Importance of Proper Nutrition
Eating and drinking can be a struggle some days, but understand that proper nutrition is absolutely critical. Without enough to eat and drink, the individual with Alzheimer’s will weaken and confusion can be even greater. Encourage regular meals, sometimes making smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Large plates of food can be overwhelming, which is why this approach tends to work well for many.
If your loved one is struggling to chew, there are strategies that your speech or language therapist can offer. In the meantime, reduce hard to chew foods and make sure that foods are in manageable pieces. Do not opt for fast and easy, choose nutrient-rich finger foods. This is especially true if your loved one is struggling to use cutlery. The more fresh whole food they consume, the better.
Tip #3: Be Sensitive When Bathing
Bathing and washing is a private matter so this can be a sensitive area. Speak to them about how they feel and what they prefer. For those who worry about deep bath water, either lower the level or invest in a bath seat to make them more comfortable.
Before they get undressed, make sure that the room is warm and double check the temperature of the water. Elderly individuals are more sensitive to high and low temperatures. When you pour water over their head, this can be frightening. Be gentle and make the experience as smooth as possible. Some enjoy calming music playing in the background.
Tip #4: Reduce Wandering By Eliminating Boredom
Wandering and walking around tends to be a common behavior within dementia patients. Some find it comforting to walk around, but this can increase their risk of injury. If they’re walking and become confused, they could panic. Supervision is always required, but you can try to reduce this behavior by providing plenty of activities. Boredom often drives this behavior so providing mentally and physically stimulating activities can really help.
If your loved one is walking at night, it is more than likely due to confusion regarding the time of day. Place a highly visual clock beside their bed to try and decrease their level of confusion. Some also get up and walk around to try and escape their pain. Be observant and try to come up with the best solution for your loved one’s specific needs.
If the individual with dementia is insistent on leaving, don’t argue with them. Instead, start to walk with them and then divert their attention so that you can walk back towards a safer and well-supervised area. Remember, encouraging them will work much better than being confrontational.
Alzheimer’s Society. (2015). Advice for nurses and other healthcare professionals. Alzheimer’s Society. Retrieved from http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=1211