My experiences of caring for people living with Dementia
For National Dementia Carers Day, Hazel our Senior Supervisor speaks about her experiences of caring for people living with Dementia
My experiences of caring for people living with DementiaIn this blog I will discuss my experiences, the techniques I have found useful and the challenges you may face when looking after someone who is living with dementia.
I have no personal family involvement of caring for someone living with dementia, instead my experiences have been throughout my career in Community Care and Nursing.
The Simple, Everyday ThingsI have met many people living with their dementia at the various different stages and many relatives who are, and have been, trying to come to terms with the condition. I have also supported and helped many who are in denial that it is happening.
It is sad to watch the person you have known prior to the diagnosis, progress through their dementia, until they need to be guided through every step of simple acts of daily living. How do we forget the simple tasks of rising from bed and going for a wash and how to dress ourselves?
For example, take yourself to the kitchen and go through the stages of making a cup of tea. It is so automatic, you feel like you could do it in your sleep. But, go back in and slow it down. Document each step, starting from recognising that you feel thirsty, finding the cup in the kitchen cupboard, identifying the kettle and selecting the cold water tap to fill it; it is surprising how many steps there actually are. Dementia isn’t just about losing your memory, it can affect cognitive processes and impair movement so what seems like such a simple every day task to us, could actually be very complex for someone living with dementia.
Repetition, Repetition and Difficult QuestionsIn the company of a person who repeats and repeats the same questions or tells you the same story over and over again, is emotionally exhausting. It is sadly not hard to imagine how Carer fatigue, anger and frustration outbursts can happen, you sometimes just want to shout, “You’ve asked me that 100 times already today!!!” Getting angry or correcting will not change anything, in fact, it will probably make things worse. It is important to be patient but recognise the need for Carer respite and time away.
Similar to repetition of topics, what do we do if a person who is alone now after many years of marriage talks of their spouse or questions where their deceased parents are? It is often easier (on both the Carer and person with dementia), kinder and more sustainable, to not tell them they have died, as this will often be new news to them which they will be hearing for the first time. If this happens several times a day, every day they will understandably become upset and often very distressed. In my experience I have found that it is often best to say that they are at work and will be back later or they are just away for a while. Although this is not the truth, and can feel uncomfortable or difficult, it will help to placate them.
However, sometimes in these circumstances you can divert the conversation. Look around the room and ask about the pet/ grandchildren photographs on the wall. Some families are very good and make a photo album up of the person’s life through the ages, places they knew well and a little life history which can stimulate conversation away from a fixation.
It is important to remember that conversations can sometimes be very difficult so I just go with the flow generally.