It is estimated that 47 million people in the world are living with dementia. Early diagnosis of dementia means earlier interventions. In turn, this improves the quality of life for dementia sufferers and their carers/families. People who care for someone with dementia often feel overwhelmed, alone and their own health suffers as a result.
So, we’ve all heard the word “dementia” before; but how much do you really understand about the disease?
Dementia, What Is It and Why Does it Happen?
Dementia is an overall term for several neurological conditions. It can be defined as a neurological impairment which can include a general decline in cognitive function, memory problems, inability to think clearly, communication difficulties, behavior and mood changes, lack of insight and understanding and can lead to total dependence on all activities day-to-day and inability to safely take care of themselves.
There are many different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia which up to 80% of cases of dementia is caused by. If you would like to know more Alzheimer’s and its stages, click here
There are many other forms of the disease; all of which play part in the prognosis and progression of the disease for an individual.
Sometimes families, friends, and carers of someone who has dementia don’t know how to have conversations or engage with the person which can be for a number of reasons including personality and behavior changes, it could be difficult if the person with the disease is no longer able to engage as they used to; or it could be for another reason.
Understanding the Challenges and Seeking Assistance when Needed
It is no secret that it can be challenging to have a loved one, or care for someone with this disease. Reaching out for help from health care professionals for any assistance is not always easy. However, it can be a life-changing experience for loved ones and carers of a person with dementia.
Health care professionals can help ease some of the stress that may be experienced. Home care agencies are able to assist by providing support and education by experienced nursing and support staff by providing individualized care for a person and their families.
When looking after someone with dementia, it is important to take care of yourself. Lack of self-care can result in physical or mental breakdowns. This can domino and make a carer unable to care for the person in need of assistance.
The 3 Stages, Signs and Symptoms That Everyone Should be Aware of
Dementia progression can be hard to break down into stages. So, we have it here for you in 3 simple terms.
- Middle-stage and
In the earlier stages’ symptoms are usually mild and often go unnoticed. The symptoms are dependent on the type of dementia and the areas of the brain which are affected. Some of the early signs are:
- Progressive and frequent memory loss
- Personality changes
- Apathy or withdrawal
- Loss of ability to complete daily tasks independently
During the middle-stage, symptoms become more noticeable to those around them. Daily life and relationships can be affected. The person may require assistance with daily tasks and may lose interest in the thing they once enjoyed.
Mood changes can sometimes occur which can include periods of anger, frustration, and anxiety. A person at this stage will usually unknowingly to themselves, become dependent and require full-time care.
Sometimes dementia sufferers will start to have issues in recognizing familiar faces or surroundings and can also lose the ability to recognize or know how to use common household items.
In the later stages, the brain has been significantly damaged, and the disease affects most, often all areas in a person’s life and their ability to care for themselves.
Other things that can occur in the later stages are physical changes, inability to mobilize without assistance or mobility aid, a decrease in the ability to talk or communicate and there is an overall general decline in health.
Sometimes dementia sufferers are no longer able to recognize familiar faces or surroundings.
Communication, the Key to it All
Communication skills are very important to help improve the quality of the relationship you have with a loved one who has dementia. It can reduce caregiving stress and improve the quality of life for everyone involved. Having good communication skills may also help in managing any difficult behaviors that could be encountered.
Here are 6 tips on communicating with a person with dementia
- Set a positive mood for interaction
Body language is a major factor in communicating your feelings and in most instances, it will have a stronger influence than words. Make sure to set a positive mood and speak to them in a manner that is pleasant and respectful. Facial expressions, tone of voice and physical touch may also help to show your feelings.
- Get the persons attention
Limiting distractions such as noise can help when having a conversation with someone who has dementia. Try turning the TV or radio off. You could also move to a different room or quieter surrounding.
Before speaking to them make sure you have their full attention by addressing them by their name and using nonverbal cues such as touch to keep them focused. Remember to meet them at their level and maintain eye contact.
- State your message clearly
Be sure to keep messages as simple as possible with your words and sentences. Speak slowly and clearly and in an appropriate tone and noise level. If they do not understand, you could try re-wording the message you’re trying to convey.
Often using the names and places of things in a sentence (where relevant and able) instead of using pronouns such as he, she or there.
- Breakdown activities into a series of manageable steps
Sometimes an activity can be overwhelming to comprehend and complete. By breaking down the tasks into steps you can encourage your loved one to do what they can while reminding them gently of what to do if they have trouble.
If they cannot complete a task on their own, you can assist them to complete this step before moving on to the next. Visual cues/hand gestures can be helpful in assisting to complete the activity as independently as possible.
- Respond affectionately and with reassurance
People who have dementia will often feel confused and anxious. The best thing to do is focus on their feelings and ask them to communicate how they are feeling any try and work out why.
If you respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort and support, they may find this reassuring and settling.
- Ask simple questions
It is easy to confuse someone by asking a series of questions. Try asking questions in a simple form – as a closed question where able (where there is only one answer such as yes, no, etc.)
Try not to ask too many unnecessary open-ended questions or asking more than one question at a time.
Sometimes giving visual prompts such as nodding or shaking your head can help clarify the question and to help guide an appropriate response.
For more tips and information about understanding dementia behaviors and communication go to Family Caregiver Alliance
As mentioned earlier, having a loved one or caring for a person with dementia can be a complex and challenging task.
It is important that you take time out to look after yourself and your own health to prevent physical and mental burnout.
You may need to reach out for some assistance and need to know that this is 100% OK to do. Finding a health care professional or support services that specialize in care for people who have dementia can be a step forward for everyone involved in the care of a person who has the disease.
If you or you know someone who may need some help such as respite services, CiMaS is ready and available! Click Here for more information
We have explored the 3 stages of dementia progression and the symptoms of each one along with our top 6 tips to improve communication with a loved one.
Hopefully, this information was useful and will help you build an even stronger relationship with your loved one.
For more information about dementia, you can visit www.dementia.org.au where you’ll find information, resources, and support which is available. You can also call 1800 100 500 (Australia)
Did you find any of these tips helpful? Which ones have you been using or think you will start to use?