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Learning and Adjusting to the Symptoms of Dementia

Posted Jun 19, 2015
Part Two of a Three Part Series on Dementia Care:

Dementia is used to describe a range of symptoms associated with decline in cognitive function. This can mean a variety of things for your loved one, but it can ultimately affect memory, emotion, language, problem solving and attention. People with dementia may feel vulnerable as their condition worsens and seek greater assistance from those around them. It is important that those suffering from dementia feel supported and are able to retain some level independence. This is why Always Home Homecare has developed this guide to help assist care providers and family member’s alike living with dementia.

A great quote by Louis Pasteur comes to mind when caring for those with Dementia. “Chance favours the prepared mind”. There are many tools and tips available for coping with the symptoms of dementia, and learning these can only help reduce the stress! This guide will help raise awareness on potential triggers and useful strategies when facing dementia.

1. Wandering – Wandering can be a necessity of those experiencing dementia, as it may help them cope with any built up tension they may have. For wandering indoors, keep your walkways clear of any obstacles that your loved one could trip over. Even gating stairwells to prevent falling may be a good idea. If you are worried about your loved one leaving the house, perhaps install an alarm system at all exits to notify you of persons leaving and entering the house. Make sure those living in your neighbourhood are aware of your loved ones possible wandering and ensure they have your phone number in case they notice them far from home. Ensure they have some sort of identification on them at all times, in case they are determined to leave the house unannounced. Finally, daily walks and even a rocking chair can help reduce anxiety and potentially steer your loved one away from wandering outside alone.

2. Handling Mood Swings – The best thing that any family member or care provider can do to lessen mood and behaviour changes is to understand their past behaviours. This means getting to know your loved ones history, likes, dislikes, hobbies, what calms them, what upsets them, the time of day in which they are at their best..etc. Being prepared and knowing the signs of your loved ones distress can help you deal with their concerns early on and help avoid confrontation. Crowded and noisy rooms can agitate your loved one, so attempt to monitor noise levels to avoid anxiety. Never rush through activities or express impatience, as this can be interpreted as anger to someone with dementia. If your loved one does become agitated, remain calm and do not scold, correct or attempt to reason with them. Attempt to redirect their focus, and determine if the outburst is a result of hunger, thirst,  their medication or that they need to use the washroom.

3. Personality Changes – Along with the physical changes that come with dementia, there may be changes in your loved ones personality. This change can be triggered by medication and other environmental influences and it’s important to understand these possible reasons for a change in personality. Possible situations include:

– Moving to a new residence or long term care facility

– Changes in familiar environment or care provider arrangements

– Misperceived threats

– Admission to a hospital

– Being asked to bathe or change clothes

Once you’ve identified the reason for a particular behaviour, it can help you choose the best method for aiding your loved one. Keep in mind that this change in personality is nothing to take personally, it is a symptom of the illness. Avoid being argumentative about facts, and keep a calm environment. Finally, look for medical reasons behind their behaviour and consult your doctor if necessary.

4. Sleep Disturbances – Routine is the best way to avoid confusion when it comes to bed time. Those suffering from dementia are often confused about the time of day, which may lead them to wake in the middle of the night thinking that this will be the start of their day. Make it a routine to go to the bathroom right before bed, to avoid waking to go later. Prepare for a good night’s sleep during the day time by avoiding caffeinated drinks and foods with high sugar content. Have your loved one participate in a daily exercise routine to help use up any excess energy they might have later in the day.

5. Loss of Initiative – It is important that care providers and family members do their best to encourage their loved ones to participate in activities they found enjoyable prior to their diagnosis. It is important to note that their organizational skills may make them unable to enjoy these hobbies without some help, but there are ways to make the experience pleasant for both you and your loved one. Try working with your loved one’s current abilities, without pushing them too much. Everyone has their good and bad days, just as those with dementia experience, so always assume they are trying their best. Don’t rush, get impatient or agitated because this can be misinterpreted as anger. Make the environment relaxing and uplifting, the good mood will linger even when the activity is long past.

We’ve taken the time to learn and understand more about the disease, and have vowed to be a dementia friend. Great dementia care starts with understanding, and education is part of the equation when providing the senior care at Always Home Homecare. As such, we want to share what we know about the dementia so that others can become a dementia friend as well.

Sign up for the Dementia Friend Campaign launched in Canada on June 1st! Use our activation code to let us know you’ve joined the movement: M6PUYAPL