Caring for those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds. Here at our Hospice between 2018 and 2019 we saw a 20% increase in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. So this World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month we wanted to see how our Hospice cares for those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Peter Hume, our Hospice Day Care Unit Deputy Manager, has been part of our Hospice team for 18 years. We sat down with Peter to discuss how we always tailor our care to those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Time To Settle In
People living with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia need a sense of safety, continuity and routine in their lives. When it comes to how we care for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia we would invite the patient and their carer in for a consultation. It allows us to get to know them and understand their needs. It gives us an insight into what they are capable of and how far along in the disease they are.
It’s important to ascertain if we are the right fit for them because the Day Care Unit can be a very lively place, which for some patients is exactly what they need, but for someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s that can sometimes be quite overwhelming – so we want to establish if they will fit in and benefit from the treatment we offer.
Once that’s happened and we offer them a place, we do a settling in period. This usually entails them coming in with a carer or family member for the first couple of visits. This allows us to shadow them to see how the carer and patient function so we can try and bring a similar dynamic to the care we provide. It’s about us tailoring the care to the individual. It wouldn’t be helpful for a patient if they were just dropped off here with a room full of strangers. At a time when things are difficult for them we want to ease them and ensure we’re creating a calm environment.
Respite & Peace Of Mind For Carers
Many people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia are being looked after by their loved ones and family members so there is, naturally, a level of anxiety about leaving their family member in our care. By coming in to see how we run the Day Care Unit and see how we look after our patients, they can put their minds at rest. Eventually we work up to the carer being comfortable with leaving their family member in the Day Care Unit and being confident that we can meet their needs.
Something we take a great deal of pride in is giving the carers of our patients a bit of respite. Once the patient is settled in it allows the carer to relax. It might just be for the day but it means they can have some time to themselves. For many of them, caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s is a full time role, and we can be talking 7 days a week. So to be given a day to drop your shoulders can reap huge benefits for both them and the patient. It allows them to recharge and be the best carer they can be. We love being able to provide that for patients and carers. They know their loved one is in good hands with us.
We have noticed those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia often need one-on-one care. As an example, we recently had a patient who was quite aggressive and unsettled when he first came. We were able to get an extra healthcare assistant to really focus on him and him alone. They sat with him for his first eight visits. It gave him continuity every time he came in. On the Day Care Unit we have a lot of other patients so we’re not always able to give ourselves to an individual for prolonged periods of time. With this patient, however, it was key we had someone who could just focus on him.
Eventually he was coming in wearing his suit, he wanted to make an effort and feel like himself, his son was able to leave him here with confidence as he could see there was that person he knew shining through again. We got into a lovely routine, got his pain sorted out, he was having complementary therapies and he was a different person to when he first arrived. He was smiling and joking with us. It goes to show what time, routine and investment can do for a patient.
Involving The Patient
Something that is key with patients living with diseases like Alzheimer’s is to speak to them directly. So many of these patients are consulted by health workers as if they are not in the room with the discussion going on between carer and consultant. We don’t do this. We take huge pride in involving the patient as much as possible. In doing this it helps them feel like they are still them, they still have a key part to play in their own care. It’s so important to acknowledge that and build a relationship with that individual.
Our palliative care is provided free to our patients but we cannot do this without your help. If you would like to support our Hospice click here to see how even a little can go a long way. Thank you.