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Dementia caregiving – It seems to spread like an epidemic among seniors

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 2 March 2019, 14:28 IST

Each person suffering from dementia is different and if you’re concerned about providing support, different things might help different people. If you know the person, his interests, his history and also how dementia has had an impact on his life, this would be genuinely helpful for both the sufferer and the caregiver. When you try to know someone with dementia, it is important that you know about his past.

The average time for survival of a person who has been diagnosed with dementia is around 4 and half years, as per new research. But those who have been diagnosed with this degenerative disease before they turn 70, they tend to live for more than a decade. To know more on dementia, keep reading this post.

Does dementia lead to early death?

Throughout the globe, the rates of dementia are predicted to double every 2 decades and there are predictions that there will be more than 82 million cases of dementia by the end of 2040. From the previous studies, it is clear that people who were suffering from dementia have reduced their survival rate as compared against people who are not suffering from dementia. Even if there is a mild impairment which is lightly linked with dementia, this too can boost your risk of death.

There is a general agreement that women who are suffering from dementia tend to live a little bit more than men suffering from dementia. However, there is also an impact on other characteristics like the level of education, the age at which it was diagnosed and their marital status. Doctors suggest that they wanted to see what was happening to the total population and not only to those people who were being treated with dementia.

It was seen that nearly two-thirds of the people who were included in the study developed dementia among women and the median age for the onset of dementia was 84 among women and 82 among men. The average age of death of a woman is 90 (with dementia) and that of a man is 87. People with higher level of education had shorter rate of survival than those who were poorly educated. There was also a difference in survival rate seen among people who lived in a nursing home with dementia and who lived at their homes along with the support of in home care.

Communicating with a person suffering from dementia

Noone is born with the power to communicate with a person who has dementia but there are always opportunities to learn how to communicate with them. If you can boost your level of communication, this will make it easier for you to provide care to them and also improve the relationship that you share with the person suffering from dementia. In case you find their behavior difficult to understand, here is a guide that will teach you how to interact with such a person.

Before you interact, set a positive mood

Remember that it is through your feelings and body language that you can communicate all your thoughts to another person, sometimes even without the use of worlds. So, when you choose to speak with a person suffering from dementia, you have to set a positive tone by speaking to him in a respectful and pleasant manner. Use a pleasing voice tone, show the best facial expressions that you can and use physical touch as this shows affection.

Try different means to grab the attention of the person

Cut down on the noise and distractions around the place where you’re planning to communicate with the person. If TV or radio is switched on, switch it off. Shut the door, close down the curtains and try to move the person to a calm and quiet surrounding. Before you speak, ensure you have his attention or he is totally focused on you. Address the person by his name and identify yourself by your name and by the relation that you share. Utilize all sorts of touch therapy and non-verbal cues so the he remains focused. Keep eye contact with the patient intact.

Ask questions which can be easily answered

If you want to ask the person few questions, make sure you ask them one at a time. Asking questions which can be answered simply with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ are the best for them. Stay away from asking questions which have got too many choices or which are open-ended. Instead of asking him, ‘Would you prefer wearing your blue jeans or your black jeans?’ it is better to show him the two trousers as visual cues work better. You will probably get a more guided response if you ask such questions.

Break down too many activities into a number of steps

If you wish to make these tasks manageable, you should break down too many activities into a list of steps. You will motivate your family member to do whatever he can and pleasantly give him a reminder of the steps that he needs to take in order to perform that task. If he seems to be confused about where to place the dinner plate, show him through visual cues as that would be helpful for him.

Have an assuring tone while speaking

People who are suffering from dementia feel anxious, confused and pretty much unsure and baffled about themselves. They often confuse reality with a virtual life and they fail to recall things which actually occurred in reality. Even if you know that they’re thinking on the wrong way, don’t convince him that he is wrong. If he goes on to demonstrate certain feelings, stay quiet and listen to him. Hold hands, touch him, hug him and praise him so that he feels reassured about himself.

Remember the past

When you start remembering the past, this is often seen as an affirming and soothing activity. While there are many people suffering from dementia who might not be able to recall what happened 30 minutes back, they can still recall things which happened 30 years back. So, avoid asking any question that is related to short term memory. Try asking him simple or general questions on that which happened 30 years back. Such old details are more likely remembered.

Behavioral changes during dementia – Dealing with them

Difficulties in communication are certainly one of the most upsetting aspects of taking care of someone who is suffering from Alzheimer’s which is yet another kind of dementia. Though it can be indeed tough to understand the reason behind behavioral changes, yet here is an explanation of the changes to be brought about by the person’s brain.

Change #1: Aggressive speech or actions

If the person already used to say things like he didn’t want to take a shower or that he didn’t want to eat, these would suddenly turn into a type of aggressive behavior. As per the Alzheimer’s Association, the most vital thing to keep in mind about physical or verbal aggression is that the person is not doing it intentionally.

Most often, it is seen that physical discomfort triggers aggression and there are times when an unfamiliar situation also leads to aggressive behavior. Fear can also lead to aggression. You should try to identify the cause behind such an aggressive behavior and try to shift his focus towards something else.

Change #2: Getting confused about time and place

You must be ready to hear things like ‘This is not my home’ or ‘when are we going to leave?’ For a dementia patient, there is always a strong urge to go back home. When a dementia patient is living in a memory care facility, you will always find him longing to go back home.

They actually want to go back to a place where they actually had more control over their lives. You can give them few tangible reminders which will remind him of the facts and in case you’re directing him to some other facility or location, it is even better to redirect the person.

Change #3: Not being able to judge properly

Dementia patients often accuse people of stealing their belongings and they might also have trouble with their finances. When a person suffers from Alzheimer’s, there is a strong deterioration of brain cells and which is the main culprit behind such behavioral changes and though process errors.

All this can lead to untrue beliefs and delusions. You need to determine the extent of the issue and then gradually resolve the issue based on its seriousness.
Dementia care tips for caregivers – Follow them to the ‘T’

Caring for someone who is suffering from dementia is totally intuitive and it is not something which comes naturally. Here we present some of the caregiver tips shared by caregivers who have ‘been there and done that’ which can reduce your load, lighten your stress and give you more strength to tackle challenges. Let’s check them out:

#1: Don’t argue with someone suffering from dementia

Both dementia and Alzheimer’s causes malfunctioning of the human brain which has grown old. When they tell you anything, you will either find them making no sense or they’re not true. But they will definitely believe whatever they’re saying as their brain is telling them to do so. On your part, though you may feel frustrated to hear untrue things, yet you should try your best to remind him or correct him. Don’t have an aim of winning an argument.

#2: Symptoms won’t go away if you ignore

When you’re dealing with a person who is suffering from dementia, you will soon find him struggling with thinking, sharing his thoughts, memory and judgment. Due to the fact that these are pretty tough to accept, there are many among us who feel that these symptoms will soon vanish on its own. But these situations never go without being treated. You can then take your patient to meet the doctor for a thorough exam. In case dementia has been diagnosed early in his case, treatments can get even more effective.

#3: Too much of medication can make the person more confused

Medicines are usually prescribed in order to relieve the person from the most common dementia symptoms. Agitation and disorientation are 2 of the most irritating symptoms which might be reduced with the help of medicines. Seniors are usually at an increased risk of issues related to medicines and drug interactions.

Dementia can also show a huge change on how few medicines set an impact on your brain. Call on the doctor if needed as suggesting the wrong medicine can boomerang your health in the long run.

#4: Validation therapy can often work

The experts of dementia care advise you to join along with the senior in his reality rather than making them force back to your reality. If you try to make them understand the reality, this might lead to utter anxiety confusion, anger and fear.

A person with dementia might relate himself as a kid who is probably waiting to be picked from school or he might think of going to office even though he is retired. He may even say that he is going to visit a relative who has passed away long back. Don’t tell them about their mistake as this won’t help. Instead use validation therapy so that you could respond to their reality version.

#5: Take steps to improve the health of your brain

When you diagnose your senior with dementia, it may seem that improving his brain health won’t be of much help. But you might not know that there are several healthy habits can cure a brain with dementia. Did you know that there are several healthy habits which can actually help a brain that is suffering from dementia? This way you can slow down the progression of dementia, boost the quality of your life and also reduce the severe symptoms.

To conclude, it can be said that it is never too easy to cope with dementia, both for the caregiver and for the sufferer. But you can always find ways of enjoying life and making your life of a better quality.

First published: 2 March 2019, 14:28 IST