What Is Dementia And How Does A Family Deal With It?
Dementia is a psychological and physiological state that includes deficits that occur in a patients cognitive chain of reasoning. The most common manifestation of this disease is a loss of memory that is so profound that it affects the patients ability to successfully interact with others at their work or in their home. Caring for dementia patients is therefore a vital topic for concerned family members.
The most obvious of all dementia symptoms is forgetfulness, but this is not defined as momentary lapses, as in when one forgets car keys or why one is going from one room to another. The forgetful state of dementia will be so profound that it creates difficulties with the patient performing familiar activities, repeating or remembering simple words (thus impairing communication with friends and loved ones) and problems with orientation, where the sense of setting and direction is affected (a patient may travel to a destination, for example, and forget how to return home).
Further symptoms may be lapses in judgment (the patient wears inappropriate clothes for their job or season), problems with mathematical calculations and problems with oriented placement (the potato chips are stored in the oven, for instance). Sudden and violent mood swings or personality shifts will occur; the patient may even become violently angry or openly hostile to loved ones. They may lose all interest in acquaintances, hobbies, interests or even companions.
So what does a concerned family do in caring for dementia patients at home? The absolute first step should be to enlist a medical professionals help. Some doctors have specialized programs to assist both dementia patients and their families with the various crises this condition brings about, while others maintain a hospice or palliative care facility whose team can be effectual in mitigating the patients and familys circumstances, if not the patient symptoms. It is absolutely indicated that a medical professionals services should be secured if the patient shows signs of hurting himself / herself or others.
What else can be done, once a family has enlisted a doctors help? As difficult as it may be for some, the patient must still be treated with all the love, respect and regard they were accorded before the onset of illness. Beyond that, the family can attempt to set limits on the patients behavior, which take control of various situations, at least when possible. For example, one may need to remind the patient periodically what day it is, what time it is, who everyone around them is or where they are. This is not being condescending to the patient; it is provided needed information that must be repeated over and over in the course of a day. Needless to say, the patient should never be treated as less than an adult.
One can always try to get inside the emotions of the patients mental state (and realize that this will never be fully successful). One can establish a daily routine, peppered through with the small rituals that include washing, food preparation or family prayer. One should allow the patient as much autonomy as possible in these routines, to help preserve their self - esteem.
One should never suppress or gloss over old habits and memories; the patient wants mementos and remembrances (especially things he / she can hold) to give reality an anchor for this. This includes physical proximity; the family should employ eye contact, gestures, touching and hugs. One should never cover over ones own feelings, but always maintain a reasonable calm in interacting with the patient, if possible.
Especially important one should not attempt to control a patients behaviors, since they have special meanings for the patient but may have none for the family members.
Remember, caring for dementia patients is demanding; one should regularly visit a doctor for ones own care as well.