Make Each Day Count - Building on Positive Interactions in Dementia Care

Make Each Day Count - Building on Positive Interactions in Dementia Care

By: ComForcare Home Care

The American Journal of Public Health reports that Americans are living longer and are in better physical health in old age than ever before.  New treatments and better knowledge about how to manager chronic conditions are making a real difference.

Unfortunately, longer lives mean that dementia associated with advanced age now have more time to appear.  While only about 7% of people age 70 to 79 exhibit dementia signs, the incidence for those over 90 years old is 37%.  Dementia poses a real challenge for family and professional caregivers alike.

While Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, it is only one of several different types.  It is important for a person showing symptoms of dementia to receive a comprehensive evaluation by a geriatric specialist.  Treatment and management of symptoms can vary depending on their cause.

While medical science seeks ways to prevent and treat dementias, those of us who work day-to-day with seniors have also been learning a great deal.  New understanding of what it feels like to live with dementia is transforming our approach to caring for those patients and helping them live fuller, happier lives.

An approach known as "habilitation therapy" is now considered a best practice in dementia care.  It focuses on creating positive emotional experiences for dementia patients and engaging them in meaningful activities.  It reminds us that dementia patients never lose the ability to experience a full range of feelings and that, like all of us, they need to have some control over their daily lives.

If someone with Alzheimer's or another dementia is part of your life, here are a few tips you can use right away.  These approaches can head off problems before they begin and help you and your loved one make the most of your time together.

Emotions are contagious.  If you are tense, rushed or annoyed, the patient will perceive that immediately

and react to your emotional state.

Let go of any instinct to correct or argue with a dementia patient.  It almost never works and it just causes frustration!

Build on the abilities your loved one retains to engage and interest her.  She may still be able to fold clothes, set the table or help with simple cooking tasks.  Feeling useful is a great morale booster.

Dementia can can affect depth perception and make small, busy patters on carpets or table cloths confusion.  Visual simplicity and clear color contrasts help patients navigate and manage daily tasks.  For example, it's easier to see a fork resting on a sold color placement than on one with a floral pattern.

Dementia also affects peripheral vision.  You may startle an Alzheimer's patient if you approach him from the side.  Objects and people need to be directly in front of the patient and at or near eye level to be seen clearly.

These are just a few of the techniques we are training our home care aides to use to make each day with their dementia clients as happy as possible.  Please call us at 908-927-0500 if you would like to receive a copy of ComForcare's 12 Tools for Effective Dementia Care.  We would be happy to send you a copy.

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