More than two-thirds of people diagnosed with dementia experience a feeling of isolation from other people, according to a latest report by a UK-based advocacy group. Many of these dementia patients said that they would like to have loved ones visit them even though they may no longer be able to recognize them.
In a survey involving 300 people suffering from dementia, researchers from the Alzheimer's Society in England have discovered that more than half of those with chronic mental disorder are no longer active in their social life. These patients said that they are no longer able to participate in the activities they used to enjoy.
To help alleviate the feeling of isolation in dementia patients, researchers suggest friends and relatives to visit and interact with these individuals more often.
"Alzheimer's Society is calling on people to make a positive New Year's resolution to spend time with people with dementia and help them take part in activities they enjoy to keep connected," the Alzheimer's Society wrote on its website.
While dementia patients find it difficult to remember physical or explicit experiences, researchers believe they can still benefit from various emotional gains, such as feelings of familiarity, comfort, security and happiness, which they will be able to retain for a longer period of time.
If you have a family member or friend who is suffering from dementia, read on to find out what dementia is and how you can help your loved ones deal with their condition.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term that pertains to a severe decline in a person's mental ability, which often prevents them from living a normal life. It is used to denote a wide range of symptoms linked to a deterioration of memory or other thinking skills.
Alzheimer's disease makes up about 60 to 80 percent of diagnosed dementia cases, while vascular dementia comes at a close second. Some other health conditions, however, can also cause dementia-like symptoms, such vitamin deficiencies and thyroid problems.
Dementia is often mistakenly referred to as senility or senile dementia. These terms reflect the popular misconception that a serious decline in mental ability is a normal occurrence in aging people.
How Do I Deal With Dementia-Related Behavior?
Interacting with people suffering from Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia can be very challenging, especially when they engage in aggressive or confrontational behavior.
However, experts said that it is important for carers of dementia patients to understand the reason behind these actions and become familiarized with the situation so they can stay calm and act accordingly.
Aggressive Speech Or Actions
Dementia patients often experience mood swings, which can cause them to make aggressive statements or engage in hostile behavior. The Alzheimer's Association, however, have pointed out that these individuals do not do such things on purpose. Their aggressive actions may be caused by several issues such as physical discomfort, environmental factors, or poor communication.
The loss of cognitive function can prevent patients from clearly articulating or identifying the cause of their physical discomfort. This is why they sometimes resort to express it through aggressive behavior.
People with the mental disorder become aggravated because of loud noises, physical clutter or overactive environments. They often experience discomfort when they are in a large crowd or surrounded by people unfamiliar to them.
Dementia sufferers are also easily stressed out by unclear instructions or confusing questions.
Instead of engaging in an argument with your loved one, it would be better if you try to analyze the potential reason for the aggressive behavior. Once you've isolated the cause, try to address the problem and shift the patient's attention to something else by speaking to them in a calm and reassuring manner.
Confusion Regarding Time Or Place
One of the most common reactions of dementia patients is a sudden desire to go home. Because of the progressive damage caused by dementia on their cognitive function, these individuals suffer from severe memory loss and confusion.
To help them deal with their confusion, you can try explaining things to them through the use of photographs and other tangible reminders. You can also redirect their focus from their desire to go home to some other topics, especially when you're in the middle of moving them from one location to another.
"The better solution is to say as little as possible about the fact that they have all of their belongings packed and instead try to redirect them-find another activity, go for a walk, get a snack, etc.," Ann Napoletan of Caregivers.com said.
"If they ask specific questions such as 'When are we leaving?' you might respond with, 'We can't leave until later because...' the traffic is terrible / the forecast is calling for bad weather / it's too late to leave tonight."
Issues With Cognitive Skills
Alzheimer's causes the brain cells of patients to significantly deteriorate over time, causing them to suffer in their thinking and make poor judgment calls. Some actions related to this are their tendency to accuse a family member of stealing something they own or hoard various household items.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, one of the best ways to handle such situation is to encourage and reassure your loved ones about the changes in their behavior. You can also help them organize their personal items in order to lessen their feeling of frustration or embarrassment.
Napoletan explained that arguing with dementia patients or blatantly questioning their ability to handle their situation is not advisable as these actions can aggravate them and put them on the defensive.