Dementia comes in many forms. The more we know and understand about dementia the better we are able to help those suffering from its effects (our loved ones). And the better able we are to cope -- as caregivers -- with the demands of daily care.
It is important to note that dementia is NOT part of normal aging; however, it does become an increasing concern as one ages. As such, dealing with dementia on an emotional level is very important. To conclude this section, Dr. Guy Proulx offers some "golden rules" when caring for a loved one with dementia, and some "words of wisdom" in relation to a common question -- whether or not visiting a loved one in late stage dementia has any effect?
Summary 1: Golden rules and tips for dealing with dementia
To summarize remember the following Golden Rules. First, make sure to tie the word with the object. Instead of saying, "Which dress do you want to put on today?" actually show the object. When you make a request, make sure you breakdown that request. You do not say, "Put on your coat and let's go for a walk." You put on your coat, show them their coat, and then initiate the activity of going for a walk.
Doing is a lot better than talking. If you are requesting that they do something, do the activity itself. By initiating the activity, you'll get a lot more success.
The emotions of dementia have a life of their own. Cognitive functions are processed in parallel, but separate from emotions. In many people with dementia emotional reactions are quite well preserved.
Summary 2: Emotional content and learning new tasks
In spite of many cognitive disorders, even in the late stages when the dementia client is bedridden, you might be very surprised at how they pick up on emotional cues. You have to be sensitive to that. If you are visiting someone who is bedridden in the late stages of dementia, and you are talking to a friend who accompanies you, you might have an agitated conversation about a bad day at work. It is not meant for the bedridden client with dementia. But because you are having an animated discussion, the client might cringe and turn away in bed. She or he interprets the emotional content as being directed to them because they can't make sense of all the information that comes with the emotional content.
Tap into as many things as possible that are familiar. Tap into things that the person used to do automatically, the past habits, and all the knowledge you can use from the past could be very useful.
When you have to teach the client something new, make sure you avoid trial and error. Use a technique we call "Errorless Learning." If you can avoid teaching something new, you should. But if you have to do it, make sure you do it once, twice, many times without any possibility of errors. By actually performing the action you can actually help them learn some new tasks.
Summary 3: Difficulties with interaction and environment
Transcript Sometimes people do not quite know how to visit or interact with somebody who is in the very late stages of dementia. It may not seem important, because the person with dementia could be bedridden, incontinent, and may not seem to communicate. Of course it is important, if not more important at those stages.
The one thing that breaks down with dementia and all these cognitive disorders is that it gets more and more difficult to spontaneously recall important things and loved ones in your life. You are much more dependent on your environment. It is more difficult to remember a loved one, and it is so much easier when that loved one is there. The way they move, the way they smell, the way they hold your hand, they way they comb your hair, the way they sing to you, could be extremely touching.