Dementia can be very unsettling and confusing for the patients living with it. Imagine losing parts of your memory, personality, and the ability to solve basic everyday problems. It’s hard for patients living with it, and can be challenging for friends, family, and caregivers who want to help but often don’t know the best ways to assist someone who is going through it. The declines can range from mild to moderate, and then become so severe that patients lose the ability to communicate and respond to their environment.
Clients with dementia need personalized care that correlates according to how far they have progressed into the disease process. Care strategies must often be fluid and reevaluated for effectiveness as the disease is constantly progressing. For people with dementia who are living in a facility, the quality of life is going to focus on the care and relationships they have with staff members.
Here are some helpful tips to ensure a successful nurse-patient relationship and the most therapeutic care:
Understand Your Patient’s Background
Having a baseline understanding of where your patients are in the disease process and understanding what their background, culture, and even prior profession are helpful in helping you understand their potential point of view. Ask them as many questions as you can about the past — it’s a therapeutic technique to help them retain memories, and allows them time to communicate. As the disease progresses, communication skills will only become more difficult.
Watch a Patient’s Behaviors
Pay attention to the unique behaviors of the patient. These are often indicative signs of the emotional state the patient is in. As it becomes more difficult to communicate with words and express emotions, behavior will often be a key piece in helping you figure out their current emotional state. As you begin to work closely with the patient, knowing their behaviors and triggers will be a helpful hint on how to provide or adjust your care.
Provide a Safe, Welcome Environment
The environment should be pleasant and welcoming and the least restrictive environment is leading better patient outcomes. Patients benefit from having access to safe outdoor spaces and a community of peers to engage with.
Keeping routine is also helpful; patients benefit from having (Activities of Daily Living) ADLs and meals performed at the same time each day. They will have less anxiety and confusion about the daily routine once they are following a regimen. Meals are best served socially with a group, but staff members do need to be involved and pay attention to cues that a client may need help with cutting, using utensils, choking hazards, and monitoring intake.
Encourage Physical & Mental Activities
Physical fitness is another key factor in improving outcomes for patients. Patients will benefit from increasing their heart rate and circulation during the day. It also promotes opportunities for social interaction and keeps patients as independent as possible.
Support safe wandering as wandering is often a common behavior in those living with dementia. The behavior can help to increase social interaction and increase muscle building. Wandering can be detrimental if the patients are able to exit the facility or safe area, so provide a supervised area for exploration. Ensure the patient is in proper non-slip footwear and has been assessed for fall risks.
Engage the patient in other forms of activity and expression throughout the day. Arts and crafts are helpful, as well as cards or word games they can play with staff and other residents. Collaborate with occupational and physical therapy for insight on what activities are best for your patients.
Working with clients suffering from dementia can be a rewarding experience. The care the patients receive and the bond of trust that is formed is a special one. However, the job can be draining as well. If you are struggling with feeling burnt out or need assistance with a client, it’s always best to speak with your supervisor and look into collaborating with other specialties to find new therapeutic interventions for your clients.