What is Person centred dementia care? This is an approach to care that is important for anyone with dementia regardless of the form of the disease. Treating the person as an individual rather than using a generalized treatment plan is the best way to manage the care of people with this life-changing illness.
This kind of healthcare management takes into consideration the person’s preferences and needs above everything else. An article in the Canadian Alzheimer Disease Review Journal, April 2003 defines person-centered dementia care as:
- One that is centered on the whole person, not on the diseased brain
- Centered on remaining abilities, emotions and cognitive abilities not on losses
- One that focuses on the person within the context of family, marriage, culture, ethnicity and gender
- Care that is based within a wide society and its values
What is Person Centred Dementia Care All About?
The most effective approach is to have everyone involved in the care of the person with dementia. When it comes to person centred dementia care, the first rule is the person’s right to know. With this kind of treatment plan, everyone including patient, family members and caregivers have a say into what is in the best interests of the patient.
To offer good quality person centred dementia care, it is important to know and understand the background of the person living with the disease. Having this information makes it easier to understand what is happening, especially when the person becomes difficult to deal with. This kind of background knowledge is helpful in looking beyond the difficulties and celebrating the strengths and positive traits of the patient. Placing objects and mementoes from the person’s life in the room is a good way to personalize the environment where they will spend most of their time. These objects can also serve as a starting point for conversations.
In the early to intermediate stages of dementia, the person with the condition plays a big role in the treatment decisions. Having a say also helps the person affected maintain their independence and self-confidence. This means allowing the individual to make some choices as it relates to their care and the activities they want to engage in. In some stages of dementia, it is possible for the person to make known their preferences as to what to eat or wear. Person centred dementia care actually encourages this type of decision making.
With this approach, caregivers, whether in a nursing home or other setting always address the person by name. Doing this, and making eye contact is a way to connect with the person and to acknowledge them. This has more than one benefit as it allows the caregiver to see understand the individual, which generally means better care. It also helps the caregiver in performing their duties, as the patient is not just a resident but also a real person with a name.
Listening, even if it is hard to understand what the person is saying is encouraged. Sharing in this way helps in learning more about the person. It enables both parties to spend quality time together instead of leaving the patient alone for long periods. Other activities for building social interaction include scrapbooking or walking if the patient is able to do so. Some persons, in various stages of dementia are affectionate and may want to hold hands. This simple act can have a calming effect and help to create a positive atmosphere.
Even during late stage dementia, person centred dementia care is still important and should be the norm in caregiving environments. At this stage, sitting with the person in silence or even to read to them can be beneficial. While the language abilities of people at this stage may decline somewhat, this does not mean that they are unable to hear or appreciate sound. Playing music, especially the types that they love or which is soothing is important in fostering a caring environment.
Some important pointers to bear in mind when caring for the person with dementia include:
- Being polite and avoiding talking down to the person
- When talking to the person, use various means such as talking, pointing, sign language or whatever means that will get what you are saying across
- If the person is in the latter stages of the disease and has difficulty communicating, try to help by filling in the blanks for them
- Avoid being critical or harsh even when the person is being difficult
- As much as possible, include the person in conversations
- Give lots of encouragement and get the person to do things for themselves and offer help only where it is necessary
- When helping the person, take time to explain what you are doing and why you are doing it
Research has shown that person centred dementia care where the caregiver sees the person rather than the condition improves the quality of care. Proper care of the person with dementia means changing previous views on the abilities of the person with the condition. A diagnosis of dementia does not mean that the person is no longer able to make decisions and take responsibility for their life. Finally, the caregiver should think about how they would feel if they were coping with the illness.
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