Imagine living with a brain that’s dulled at the edges. Senses are less sharp, memories more faded, and the activities that once brought you joy now seem vaguely puzzling. That’s what daily life is like for the 5.5 million patients in the United States with dementia. Though the disease often starts out subtly, it can soon impact every aspect of life, making simple tasks like running errands or taking a bath nearly impossible. For many dementia patients, this loss of control can quickly lead to depression, anxiety, and even social withdrawal.
For the family members of people with dementia, the changes in their mental functioning can be heartbreaking and hard to cope with. Providing care for patients with dementia is never simple, especially when it comes to choosing end-of-life care options like hospice. This guide is designed to give you advice for providing quality home health care for dementia patients and to help you know what to expect when to bring in hospice services.
Tips for Providing Home Health Care for Dementia Patients
As a progressive disease, dementia affects the brain’s ability to process and retain information. In time, faces and experiences slip from memory for dementia patients, and their ability to perform simple tasks diminishes. While there is no stopping dementia, there is much that quality dementia care can do to slow it down.
Below are some suggestions for encouraging dementia patients to continue to stretch their brain and slow down the progression of the disease.
Make Meals Stimulating
Dementia patients are notorious for developing eating problems. Sometimes they lose the ability to tell when they are full or hungry, and other times their sense of taste and smell weakens enough that food is no longer attractive. Dementia patients can also lose the ability to use silverware, making mealtime too frustrating of an activity for them to want to suffer through. Altogether, these problems put patients at risk of malnutrition.
To provide quality dementia care, home caregivers will need to ensure that meal times remain a pleasant, nourishing experience for their patient. One strategy is to provide several small meals throughout the day, rather than relying on three large ones. This change in routine prevents expectations of what mealtime should be and allows for more flexibility. Finger foods are also a good option, as they remove the discomfort of dealing with silverware.
Keep Daily Journals
The spread of dementia may be swift, but in-home caregivers for dementia patients can help them maintain their mental abilities by encouraging their patient to write in a daily journal. Not only does this give them an opportunity to express their thoughts, but it’s also a way to ground them in the reality of the present moment.
Another benefit of journaling is that it may help dementia patients get back in touch with their emotions. It’s common for dementia patients to display outbursts of emotion for little discernable reason, and journaling about their thoughts later might help them clarify where their feelings stemmed from.
Establish Structured Routines
As patients start to lose some of their primary mental abilities to dementia, home care givers need to find ways to relate to them. In the initial stages of the disease, it’s possible for patients to continue their hobbies and keep engaging with the greater world. However, as the illness progresses, it becomes harder for patients to take control of their activities, meaning that the routine established by a caregiver can become essential.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, caregivers should look to the patient’s lifelong interests for activity inspiration. Try activities like listening to music, feeding birds at the park, or visiting an animal shelter to help them find more joy in their daily life. Simple activities like putting away laundry, doing dishes and working in a garden can make a difference in establishing a consistent routine and helping the patient feel valuable to the household while also tiring them out so that they can sleep better at night.
When to Seek Home Health Services for Dementia
Though family members can maintain the health of their patient with dementia for a while, eventually a point is reached where additional help is needed. Dementia often lasts between five to 15 years, and taking care of late-stage dementia can quickly become a full-time job that is emotionally and physically taxing for family members. Bringing in home help can ease the care burden and aid the process of saying good bye.
Home health care for dementia patients is usually provided by a full-time in-home service person that provides non-medical help, or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) that provides more specific care. The care that your dementia patient requires may vary as their disease progresses, but bringing in an expert will make the process easier for everyone.
How Intrepid Helps Dementia Hospice Patients
Eventually, dementia patients reach the stage where hospice care is needed. At Intrepid USA, we provide both home-based hospice services for patients with dementia. By taking care of your loved one in the space they feel most comfortable, we aid their journey through dementia and keep them living the fullest life they can, all while easing the burden of daily care from you.
Our hospice team is certified in Dementia Care Training from the Alzheimer’s Association, meaning that they are equipped to provide the best quality of life to patients while allowing them to die with dignity. Through our person-centered care, you can rest assured knowing that your loved one receives gentle, dignified care.
Are you struggling to provide care to a family member with Dementia? Our team is ready to help.
We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide home health and hospice care to dementia patients in ways that enhance and celebrates their lives.
Please contact us at 1-800-888-5311 to learn more about our home care services today.