Caring for people with dementia
As populations age, caring for people with dementia has become more common. Elderly caregiving may consist of formal care and informal care. Formal care involves the services of community and medical partners, while informal care involves the support of family, friends, and local communities, but more often from spouses, adult children and other relatives. In most mild to medium cases of dementia, the caregiver is a family member, usually a spouse or adult child. Over time more professional care in the form of nursing and other supportive care may be required, whether at home or in a long term care facility.
The role of family caregivers has become more prevalent; care in the familiar surroundings of home may delay onset of some symptoms and postpone or eliminate the need for more professional and costly levels of care. Home-based care may entail tremendous economic, emotional costs as well. Family caregivers often give up time from work and forego pay in order to spend an average of 47 hours per week with an affected loved one, who frequently cannot be left alone. In a 2006 survey of patients with long-term care insurance, the direct and indirect costs of caring for an Alzheimer's disease patient averaged $77,500 per year in the United States. Caregivers are themselves subject to increased incidence of depression, anxiety, and, in some cases, physical health issues.
Schulz et al. concluded in a US study that "the transition to institutional care is particularly difficult for spouses, almost half of whom visit the patient daily and continue to provide help with physical care during their visits. Clinical interventions that better prepare the caregiver for a placement transition and treat their depression and anxiety following placement may be of great benefit to these individuals." Thommessen et al. found in a Norwegian study that the most common stressors reported were "disorganization of household routines, difficulties with going away for holidays, restrictions on social life, and the disturbances of sleep..." and that this was common to carers for dementia, stroke and Parkinson's disease patients. In a Japanese study, Hirono et al. assessed that "the patients' functional and neuropsychiatric impairments were the main patient factors which increased the caregiver's burden." An Italian study by Marvardi et al. found "that patients' behavioral disturbances and disability were the major predictors of the time-dependent burden; the psychophysical burden was explained mainly by caregiver anxiety and depression."
Respite or day care
Caring for someone with dementia is accompanied by many emotional and physical challenges. Respite care is designed to give rest or relief to caregivers. A 2014 did not report any benefits or detrimental effects from the use of these interventions. However, these results may be due to the lack of high quality studies in this field.
Early utilization of in-home help services may delay institutionalization.
A2010 review summarizes what is known about best practices for safe and stimulating environments for dementia. Architects in designs for aging in place can consider the relationship of the built environment to the functioning and well-being of seniors.
Caring for someone with dementia is especially challenging due to the fact that dementia patents soon lose the ability to speak or otherwise communicate and seem unable to understand what's said to them. Care approaches known variously as patient centered care or comfort-centered care attempt to address the difficulty in communication between caregiver and patient. These terms are used in reference to all patient populations, not just dementia patients.
Some studies have demonstrated emotional memory enhancement in Alzheimer's patients suggesting that emotional memory enhancement might be used in the daily management of Alzheimer's patients. One study found that objects are recalled significantly better in Alzheimer's patients if they were presented as birthday presents to AD patients.
In the acute care setting a fair number of individuals diagnosed with dementia suffer from hip fractures. For that reason, nurses are in high demand to care for this population. When taking care of the elderly who are cognitively impaired it is challenging to assess if one is experiencing pain. Pain is commonly defined as a subjective feeling that is best understood by the patient. Because of this, nurses tend to rely on verbal statements from patients to detect whether one is hurting. Due to verbal skills mostly diminished in this population it can increase the risk of inadequately assessing ones needs, including if they are in pain. Research has shown that patients not being able to express themselves is the number one barrier when it comes to caring for the elderly.
As the population continues to age, the numbers of patients in hospital settings with dementia will most likely increase. To prevent the elderly with dementia from receiving inadequate recognition of pain nurses should use the theory of common sense to aid in assessments. Interpreting body language has been shown effective in relieving discomfort. Another way to improve perception of pain is getting to know the patient better through family member’s eyes. Obtaining further information about the patient from family members helps make the connection to normal behaviors. Although some of these strategies are beneficial there still is a lack of research focused on dementia patients in the acute care setting. As a result, this puts an increased risk of strain on nurses and patients’.
|Wikiversity has learning resources about Caregiving and dementia|
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- Next Step in Care: free, downloadable resources for family caregivers and health care providers
- Carol Levine, ed. (2004). Always On Call: When Illness Turns Families into Caregivers (2nd ed.). Vanderbilt University Press for the United Hospital Fund. ISBN 0-8265-1461-8.
- Cavaye Joyce (2006). Hidden Carers. Edinburgh: Dunedin Press. ISBN 1-903765-66-8.
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