Dementia care at home is all about meeting the seniors’ care and support needs. Many dementia patients who live at home often don’t have their needs met. This can lead to stress and anxiety for the patient, jeopardizing their health.
Researchers suggest that routine assessments of a patient’s care can easily be paired with simple fixes in order to improve their well-being. Some of these adjustments include adding grab bars in bathrooms, having carpets safely tacked down and guns are safely locked away.
Study leader Betty S. Black, explained, “Currently, we can’t cure their dementia, but we know there are things that, if done systematically, can keep people with dementia at home longer. But our study shows that without some intervention, the risks for many can be quite serious.”
The study found that both patient and caregiver have unmet needs which can increase the likelihood of a patient entering a long-term care home. Unmet needs among caregivers include lack of available resources and lack of referrals to support services and education about dementia to better care for the patient.
Black suggests that paying attention to assessments and making those changes to the home to improve care can decrease the number of patients entering long-term care homes and have them staying at home for longer.
The researchers performed at-home assessments of 254 patients living at home and conducted 246 informal interviews with their non-professional caregivers. The researchers found that 99 percent of dementia patients and 97 percent of caregivers had at least one or more unmet need. Ninety percent of these needs revolved around safety measures and over half had inadequate daily activities. Furthermore, nearly one-third still required dementia evaluation or diagnosis.
Unmet needs fall into the following categories: safety, health, meaningful activities, legal issues and estate planning, assistance with activities of daily living, and medication management.
Over 60 percent of patients required medical care for other health conditions aside from dementia. Black continued, “This high rate of unmet medical care need raises the possibility that earlier care could prevent hospitalizations, improve quality of life, and lower the costs of care at the same time.”
Unmet needs were seen higher in those with greater cognitive function, which could be attributed to not realizing that they needed care as they were unaware that they had dementia.
Lastly, the researchers found that African-Americans of low income, those with more symptoms of depression, and those who could perform more personal tasks had the highest level of unmet needs.
Caring for a dementia patient at home can raise unique challenges, especially as dementia progresses. There are many aspects of care to be considered including feeding, dressing, washing and bathing, mobility, safety in the home, telecare technology, and advanced care planning. For many caregivers, it is beneficial to request the assistance from support services organizations to help share the responsibilities.
Changes in a person’s behavior, too, can add extra stress to a caregiver, especially if they cannot understand the root of these changes. Tips to help better manage behavioral changes in dementia include checking with the patient’s doctor to not only educate yourself on dementia but to see if side effects of medications could be the cause of unusual behavior; trying to uncover if the behavior has a purpose, if the person hungry, for example; trying to uncover behavioral triggers such as a change in environment; getting support from others; and lastly, understanding that a tactic that works today may not necessarily work tomorrow and so you may have to change how you handle and manage these behavior changes.
Another common struggle is communication problems. As dementia progresses, the patient’s ability to communicate may become impaired. Tips to deal with communication difficulties include setting a positive mood for communication, ensuring you have the patient’s full attention, relaying the message clearly, asking simple questions that are easy to answer, listening with your ears, eyes, and heart, breaking down activities into steps, and keeping your sense of humor as the patient will most likely enjoy laughing along with you.
As mentioned, caring for a dementia patient at home can have its challenges and although each day may bring upon new issues, it is possible to keep the patient at home for as long as possible with proper education, support, and tactics to ensure their needs are met.