Dementia is a progressive condition, worsening over time, eventually leading to death. Many people never are diagnosed, and for others, it might take years to realize something has changed.
As a caregiver or loved one, it is important to look out for these changes, recognize them when they occur, and adapt the level of care as needed. To learn about your loved one’s state of dementia it is important to talk to them about it. Ask them what they are feeling and if they are noticing any differences in their ability to think or to remember things. However, be aware that many people living with dementia may not realize something has changed. If they do not want to discuss these changes, do not press them or show frustration yourself.
Take notice of any patterns of behavior as they arise and be sure that your loved one knows you love and support them as these changes occur. As dementia progresses it is common for our loved ones to begin to feel guilty about their condition, to feel as if they are a burden on others. If left unchecked these feelings can develop into a serious depression and can add to the stress they are already experiencing. This inability to connect and comfort patients is a persistent problem in the way that a lot of caregivers approach working with someone living with dementia.
To connect with someone living with dementia, we need to join their world, not force them to conform to ours. Instead of resorting to antipsychotic medications and confinement, try embracing what they still do well. While there is merit in a lot of the medications being provided today, there is often so much more we can do for our loved ones when we are able to understand and sympathize with what they are experiencing. In other words, patience and compassion can go a very long way when caring for a loved one with dementia.
NursePartners’ approach to Alzheimer’s and dementia care is based on The GEMS™: Brain Change Model created by Teepa Snow. NursePartners recognizes the Teepa’s Positive Approach™ to Care as an effective method to provide care for loved ones affected by dementia. This approach categorizes dementia stages with six different gemstones, defined by unique characteristics. Click here for an overview of the classification system.
By being able to identify what stage of dementia your loved one is currently experiencing, you can create a style of care that helps them to feel loved and at ease. For example, patients classified under the Amber gemstone find great pleasure with hands on activities like painting, stitching, or drawing. While doing these activities patients are often observed to be focused, calm, and at peace; and when caring for a loved one with dementia, minimizing anxiety and maximizing these times of eternal peace is a great example of providing great care.
To learn more about NursePartners and the services we are able to provide for you and your loved ones, check out our Services Overview.