Nine Common Questions About DementiaPosted on October 3, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Alzheimers Care, Blog, Caregiver Education, Caregiving, Dementia Care, Education
How To Deal With Dementia
By: Candiann Roswell, Hamlet Hub Contributor
Dementia can be a heartbreaking illness that perplexes not only the patient but also the caregiver. In a recent interview with Hamlethub, dementia expert Tony Walker gave the following advice.
1. Should you correct a dementia patient’s recall if they are not presenting the right info? You should try not to correct a dementia patient’s recall because they are trapped in time, so to speak. Their perception of reality is limited to the memory that they are re-living at that moment and correcting them can make them feel agitated or frustrated. For example: A dementia patient under the illusion that he was still working would pace the floor stating that he needed to go a meeting. Rather than remind the patient of his current surroundings, a caregiver can help to make him feel comfortable by staging chairs and books and giving him his suit jacket to wear, which relaxed him, because in his mind his goal of attending this important meeting had been fulfilled. A caregiver’s ingenuity and willingness to do these few simple things can help the patient relax and improve their mood overall.
Related: Conversation Tips For Alzheimer’s Caregivers
2. Does music help to stimulate someone with dementia? Music has proven to be helpful for certain cases of dementia to stimulate certain memories and bring the patient a sense of relaxation and comfort. Therefore, it can be therapeutic for those with dementia, as it can aide in agitation management and provide a way for patients to connect with a loved one when other avenues have failed. Music therapy can also help to foster emotional closeness for the patient by causing them to reminisce about a time of happiness or love that they experienced in their life that is no longer available to them, and if nothing else, hearing a favorite song might simply bring them a smile.
3. Is depression part of dementia? Depression can be a symptom of dementia, but one does not guarantee the other. However, this distinction can be problematic when diagnosing a patient, because depression and dementia share many of the same symptoms. Feelings such as a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, social withdrawal, changes in sleep and eating habits, can be symptomatic of both ailments. To determine if depression is present in a dementia patient, it is necessary to monitor their behavior for a few weeks starting with the initial onset of marked changes in behavior. If during this period, the patient exhibits other behavior changes such as: significantly depressed mood – sad, hopeless, discouraged; reduced pleasure in social contacts and usual activities; social isolation or withdrawal; changes in eating or sleeping habits; agitation or lethargy; irritability; fatigue or loss of energy; feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or inappropriate guilt; recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, then it is important to consult your concerns with the patient’s doctor to receive a proper diagnosis.
4. What are the signs both overt and subtle? Dementia can come in many forms with a variety of signs and symptoms. Overt symptoms are defined as, but not limited to, the loss of reasoning and judgment and the loss of communication and language skills. Subtle signs can be slight changes in personality, or becoming easily irritable. Caregivers should be supportive and tuned into even slight changes in the patient’s behavior. A caregiver needs to be regularly monitoring these changes, because as dementia patients lose communication or reasoning skills they may not be able to properly communicate when there is a problem.
5. When does a caregiver call for additional help? When a caregiver starts to feel overwhelmed or that the care they are providing is not sufficient for the patient it may be necessary to bring in additional help. This may be when a caregiver would solicit the help of a nurse to speak with the family in order to educate them on the procedures and guidelines set forth by their home care agency such as Partners in Care to ensure and maintain proper care and safety of the patient.
Related: Alzheimer’s Caregiver: Venting VS Complaining
6. How does a caregiver tend to himself/herself? First, caregivers should try not to take anything personally that would transpire between the patient and themselves. Dementia patients may not be aware when something they say or do causes emotional or physical harm. Second, the caregiver should see to their own needs just as they do for the patient. Eating healthy well-balanced meals; getting plenty of rest; regular exercise and time for recreation. All of these lead to and maintain an optimum performance level that is necessary to complete each day’s tasks.
7. What kind of food is important for someone with dementia? It is important for caregivers to ensure that the patients are receiving balanced meals and nutrient rich food items. These meals should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat and sugar-free foods, and avoid fatty meats, fried and sugary foods and chocolate. Caregivers should be sure that patients are eating often, and that they have healthy snacks on hand, as well as foods that are easy to prepare. Due to a dementia patient’s limited capacity to communicate their needs, being prepared to meet their dietary demands at all times is pivotal.
Related: The Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia
8. Is caffeine good or bad for a dementia patient? There are conflicting studies on caffeine as to its benefits or drawbacks for dementia patients. It is best to have the family consult the patient’s doctor to ensure that there is no outstanding health reason that caffeine should be restricted in a particular patient’s diet.
9. Is alcohol good or bad for a dementia patient? The effects that alcohol can have on body systems can exacerbate the symptoms of dementia in many patients. As every case is different, it is always best to consult a patient’s doctor with any specific dietary questions.
Related: 12 Tips For Supporting an Alzheimer’s Caregiver