Dementia is a disorder that damages the brain cells. The affects of the disorder occur in stages over a period of years, beginning with short-term memory loss, eventually leading to an inability to properly care for one's self. It can cause hallucinations, violent behavior, and mood swings. To care for a dementia patient requires compassion and understanding, but above all, it requires patience.
Educating yourself is vital if you are caring for a loved one at home. The more you know about dementia, its stages, and what to expect, the better equipped you will be to handle situations as they arise. Each dementia patient progresses through the disease differently and experiences different symptoms. If you work in a nursing facility, you may be required to take periodic classes referred to as in-services, which serve to keep you updated on the latest forms of treatment and techniques used in caring for dementia patients.
Keep Your Patience
Caring for dementia patients requires a considerable amount of understanding and patience. She is prone to mood swings, violent behavior, and hallucinations. When you encounter these moments during care, you need to maintain your patience, continuing to speak to her in a calm, soothing voice. This may help divert her attention from the cause of her agitation and can diffuse the situation. In the event her behavior does not subside, it is better to walk away from the situation until she is calm, as long as she is safe. You should never disagree with what she is saying or attempt to convince her she is wrong and you are right; this will only escalate her agitation.
Ensure Their Safety
As the disease progresses, dementia patients develop a tendency to wander. To keep them safe, you will need to keep them in an enclosed area, such as a fenced yard, or install an alarm system. If he is at home, the alarm system can be something simple such as chimes tied to a door, alerting you when they attempt to leave. If he is in a nursing facility, the alarm system is a bit more complex. He will have a band on his wrist or ankle with a sensor in it. Each door and elevator is equipped with a device that automatically locks and sets off a sound similar to a fire alarm whenever he attempts to leave.
Clarify the Time
One problem dementia patients may have is confusing night and day, resulting in backward sleeping patterns. One way to combat this problem is to keep the blinds open during the day, enabling her to see the light, and closing them at night so she knows it's time to sleep. You may also want to place large numbered, digital clocks throughout the house, or in their room, so she can see the time clearly.
Engage Them in Activities
Whether you play cards with him or look through old photo albums, doing something to occupy his mind will help keep him busy and entertained. This may also help prevent agitated behavior from taking place and help his memory stay intact a bit longer. Remember, the brain is a muscle that needs exercise. If it's not used, it will die.