80 year old Robert was rushed to the hospital following a nasty fall in the bathroom. At the hospital, Robert struggles to figure out why he was brought there. He is also unable to provide a reasonable account of his medical history.
Robert has dementia. He struggles to deal with ordinary, everyday things which most of us take for granted.
Dementia is a common condition that usually goes hand in hand with old age. It starts rearing its ugly head as inconsequential memory loss and soon leads to memory lapses that are disturbing to the patient and to their family. The patient loses control of the ability to care for themselves and this can be a very frustrating experience. Currently, there is no cure for dementia which slowly progresses over time.
How to care for patients with dementia?
Caring for a loved one with dementia is challenging, to say the least. The following information can help you take care of a patient like Robert.
Patients with dementia need a lot of help with bathing, eating, hygiene, taking their medications on time and to exercise which is also known as activities of daily living. Here are some valuable tips that will make your care easier and the life of your patient safer.
1. Follow a routine
Following a routine is very important in the care of a patient with dementia as they feel safe and know what to expect at the set time. It is almost like a child that feels secure and follows the daily routines. As far as possible, the patient should be encouraged to participate in their own care as this will improve their physical strength and sense of purpose as well.
2. Elder-proof the house
It is easy for patients with dementia to trip on upturned rugs and slip on tiled floors. As we age our bones become brittle and we are more prone to fractures and broken bones. Rearranging the furniture and replacing rugs with non skid mats will prevent unnecessary accidents and injuries for your patient. Another place where nonskid mats are a must is in the bathtub and bathroom floor. Installing grab handles and railings at sitting level next to the toilet seat will also prevent patient falls.
3. Do not take it personally
Sometimes dementia can change a mellow easygoing person to a belligerent and unrecognizable individual. It is important to understand why the patient is acting in such a way and also not to take it personal. Making sure all the basic needs are met can calm the patient as the inability to make us understand what the patient wants could be the source of the behavior.
4. Dress the patient in easy-to-wear clothes
Keeping the dressing process simple will go a long way in making this time easy for you and the patient as they can be easily overwhelmed. Arrange the clothes in the order the patient would like to dress and respect their privacy if they are able to dress on their own. Sometimes such a simple task can wear the patient out and leave them with no energy to eat. So pacing the activities in a way that utilizes the time when they have the most energy is very helpful.
5. Prepare the bathroom before bathing
Bathing can be the most difficult time during the care of a patient with dementia but being prepared can make the process a lot easier and predictable. It is important to first make sure there is ample space in the bathroom and it is safe before the patient enters the bathroom. Arranging all the items the patient needs for the bath within reach will increase the comfort level of the patient and prevent any incidents of agitation and resistance. Again, allow the patient to help themselves as much as possible as this will give them a feeling of control.
6. Learn to look for cues for using the restroom
As dementia progresses, the patient may become incontinent of urine and stool. This will be a very uncomfortable period for the patient and great care must be taken to address the emotional and physical needs of the patient. You can learn to recognize the behaviors before incontinence occurs like inability to sit still, agitation or undressing and use these expressions as a cue to help the patient use the restroom.
The best way to care for elderly patients with dementia is to follow a routine with gentleness, patience and kindness. As always, follow the golden rule “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you”.