Dementia is an illness associated with old age.The most well-known type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. In dementia, a progressive brain dysfunction leads to a gradually increasing restriction of daily activities.
Dementia not only affects patients, but also those surrounding them, as most patients require care in the long-term.
There are two types of dementia: static dementia and progressive dementia. Static dementia remains stable, while progressive dementia gets worse. People with dementia need constant care.
It occurs either suddenly or gradually and causes the following symptoms:
- Memory disturbance
- Personality change
- Impairment of judgement
- Loss of control of impulses
- Confusion/ Disorientation
- Depression/ Paranoia/ Anxiety
- Diminishing initiative
- Deterioration of intellectual capacity
- Obsessive behaviour/ Paranoia
- Delusions/ Psychotic episodes
Caring for people with dementia
The most important thing unconditional esteem for the patient, the love for him/her, the struggle for the acceptance of this person with his/her illness.
The esteem has to be constantly renewed especially in crisis situations. The sufferer needs to feel acceptance. As family/friends, you need to be the one(s) to accept responsibilty and control of every situation. Needless to say, you should not embarass the sufferer or put them down in any way. There is also a balance to be maintained in your behaviour towards the sufferer. It is vital that you maintain a sympathy towards the patient and try to understand them. They are a human being and not an object to nurse. However, they do have a serious disorder and you will not be able to understand everything, and you must accept this too.
Be genuine and sincere towards the person with demenia, providing this does not hurt the sufferer. Being false undermines the relationship, resulting the person to retreat into themselves. Caring for people with dementia means to make your own self available. The successes you will experience will be small but gratifying. Take one step at a time.
Create a reliable daily routine with small rituals such as washing hands, preparing food, cleaning. Be neither too demanding nor too lenient. Make use of the skills that the suffere still possesses as this will make them feel good about themselves, and feeling good allows them to feel human.
Another way to make them feel good is by giving them a sense of belonging and familiarity. If you can, link into former habits, weave in memories, give the patient things to hold which represent parts of his/her life . The focus should be on creating a pleasant experience of life for the sufferer and not achieving progress or results.
As the disease progresses, physical closeness becomes very important: touching hands, gestures and eye contact all create a sense comfort and warmth. Be calm, though cautious. You must be tolerant of strange behaviour.Try to understand what pleasure the patient is getting from certain behaviours.
Take care of your own body and mind. Do your best but do not push yourself to the limit either psychologically or physically. Look after your relationships and interests and get outside help when you can.