People suffering from dementia face serious social, emotional, physical and psychological challenges. These challenges are far more than just living with a medical condition; they reach to the very core of patients’ existence and often impact the experiences, character and outlook to life of both the patient and their loved ones.
At HomeCare Australia, we believe that as caregivers, our duty is not just to take care of the clients in our care, but to do our best to minimise the challenges they face on a daily basis. Doing this effectively requires us to understand how dementia affects patients in key areas, and with this understanding, adopt the right approaches to caring for them. The following are some of the areas that may be particularly challenging for people with dementia and how you as a caregiver, can help:
Communication can be a major challenge, and it often arises unexpectedly. For instance, some patients may battle to find the right words to use at certain times, while at other times they are articulate. In fact, constantly forgetting what they were about to say could be an early indicator of the onset of dementia. This communication difficulty and the anxiety and embarrassment that goes with it often causes patients to withdraw from social life or lose confidence in themselves.
Deal with communication issues by:
- Giving clients with dementia a chance to express themselves, be patient, and don’t rush to finish their sentences for them.
- Paying attention to their gestures and body languages, as this is a major part of communication.
- Speaking slowly, making eye contact and with attention when communicating with them.
With time, people suffering from dementia lose their independence and have to rely heavily on someone close by for support and care. They get frustrated when they can’t handle things by themselves and this could lead to feelings of inadequacy and friction in relationships.
Deal with independence issues by:
- Focusing on what your client can do and letting them do it. That will increase their self-esteem.
- Helping them do things themselves and not always taking over.
- Breaking down tasks into manageable and smaller forms that can be easily managed.
- Being supportive rather than authoritative, encourage rather than dictate.
People living with dementia will eventually, at some point, have difficulties making their own decisions concerning their health, finances, families, etc. This naturally leads to frustration and with the very real possibility of making major mistakes, they find themselves in a state of heightened anxiety.
Deal with decision-making issues by:
- Giving the needed support so that your clients can make decisions themselves, especially decisions that do not have major ramifications.
- Alerting loved ones when key decisions need to be made, so they can lead the process.
- Making decisions on minor everyday things for your clients, when it becomes too difficult for the client to make decisions. However, your decisions must always reflect the needs and aspirations of your client.