This week at Blue Water Homecare, we are celebrating all of our fellow caretakers who have the delicate task of looking after people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Alzheimer’s and Dementia Staff Education Week(February 14-18, 2022) is dedicated to raising awareness about these conditions and sharing best practices for those entrusted with their care.
It is estimated that 6.2 million Americans ages 65 years and older are currently living with Alzheimer’s Disease, a severe form of dementia. Dementia can cause irritability and mood swings as well as affect capabilities related to memory, communication, attention and judgment.
“Working with our dementia clients requires a great deal of patience and compassion,” says Blue Water Homecare founder and COO, Jennifer Prescott, RN, MSN, CDP. “We encourage caregivers to set a positive mood as soon as they enter the home, state intentions for the day’s tasks clearly and repeatedly if necessary, and remember those with dementia often tend to mirror emotions of those around them.”
At-home caregivers often have to navigate unpredictable behavior and confusion (sundowning) and help with difficult tasks such as making sure their dementia clients are eating enough, staying hydrated and bathing regularly.
Here are some tips that our non-medical caregivers find helpful and may serve as inspiration for others facing similar struggles:
Those with dementia can forget how or when to eat or drink water, may be taking medications that interfere with their appetite, or food or drinks suddenly taste ‘funny’ or unappealing. To help them eat better, try:
- Making meals, snack time, and drinking water a regular part of the day by building it into their routine as a consistently scheduled activity.
- Eating your meals or snacks alongside them so they do not feel isolated.
- Preparing easy-to-eat ‘finger foods’ that are more manageable than using silverware and pouring water/beverages into a sippy cup or using a straw to facilitate drinking.
- Adding another element that they enjoy to mealtime, such as listening to music or watching a favorite television show, can also prove productive.
Good hygiene is often neglected by dementia sufferers, and can be a touchy subject to address given the nature of caring for and cleaning oneself. In order to avoid distress and embarrassment, approach giving a bath or shower to your client by:
- Continuing with their regular hygiene habits before the onset of dementia. Did they prefer a bath or shower, in the morning or at night, a specific brand of soap or shampoo? Doing what they are familiar with can help ease anxieties.
- Ensuring and respecting their privacy by making sure doors and windows are closed in the bathroom, keeping a towel over their front and lifting it only to wash as needed, and having clean clothes ready and waiting for as soon as they get out.
- Creating the right environment and checking that the room or water is neither too hot or cold, and that the lighting is sufficient. Also make sure that the floorspace in front of the tub/shower is clear so that they do not slip or trip. Use non-slip rugs, bath mats, and shower seats if needed.
- Giving a ‘towel bath’ if regular bathing/showering is too traumatic. Dampening a large towel or washcloth with warm water and massaging it over the body with easy-to-rinse soap can be a soothing alternative.
Restlessness, agitation, or disorientation can become worse at night for people with dementia. This is often referred to as ‘sundowning’. Ways in which to handle these challenging hours at the end of the day include:
- Increasing physical activities during the day, and avoiding long naps, to make sure they are ready for rest at nighttime.
- Eliminating sugary foods or caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon or evenings that can cause hyperactivity.
- Planning calming activities for their nighttime routine such as watching a familiar television show, playing cards or board games, or reading aloud/listening to an audiobook.
- Turning on indoor lights just before sunset and closing blinds or curtains to signal that the end of the day is here.
At Blue Water Homecare, we offer personalized, safe, and comforting at-home, dementia, and Parkinson’s care services. Contact us today to learn more about becoming a valued member of our team of caregivers.. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram