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Tips to Communicate Clearly with Patient with Dementia

I saw a patient today that has Dementia.  Caring and loving.  But today, she was irritated and annoyed.  I was not surprised by her reaction.  I can tell that her caregiver was embarrassed by her behavior.  I had to reassure her caregiver about the signs and symptoms of Dementia and change in personality.  Caregiver expressed that the patient is more aggressive and agitated around unfamiliar people even neighbors that come and visit at times.

I reassure the caregiver that it is part of the disease process.  The anger, frustration, and agitation are ways that the patient can only express her feelings at the time.  I noticed that patient get irritated when we are talking about her in front of her without including her in the conversation.  She does not know how to express the feeling of exclusivity.  So, she lashes out at everyone. 

I observed her behavior and informed her caregiver to include her in conversations, so she will feel included.  We tried these techniques towards the end of the session.  Her behavior changes towards me and her caregiver.

What is Dementia?

Dementia has many causes and the most common cause is Alzheimer’s disease.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.  Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s).

Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.

Dementia affects short- and long-term memory at a different stage.  Short term memory is seen at early stages of dementia.  Long term memory is affected in the late stages of Dementia.  

What are some of the signs of Dementia?

Some early signs of dementia are a loss of memory especially short-term memory loss.  Example, forgetting where you leave the car keys, forgetting how to get to the grocery store or drive home. 

Long term memory loss is indicated by forgetting names of children, spouse, self at a younger age.  Some patients revert to decades in the past.  For example, when asking where they live, the patient will refer to childhood home instead of current home. 

Tips to assist Caregiver to assist patient with Dementia

Communication- Usually we communicate with a combination of simple, complex commands and 1-step commands. 

Simple commands will be one sentence. For example, how are you doing today? 

Complex commands will be multiple sentences that require reasoning and complex thoughts. For example, how are you doing today? Do you need any help getting out of bed?

A one-step command is a word or a phrase.  For example, sit down or stand up

In conclusion: Caregivers should be mindful of ways to communicate with loved ones.  Breaks in communication can lead to frustration, anger, disappointment on both sides.  Mirroring task is a great tool to use while communicating.  For example, if the goal is to get a patient with Dementia to sit down then mirror the task by sitting down.

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My life revolves around health and fitness. As a young child, I enjoyed the different style of dance. As an adult, I became a physical therapist. I helped people recover from injuries, pain or surgery. I also enjoy working out in my spare time. So I started teaching group fitness classes.
This blog is all about health, fitness, and healthy lifestyle.

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