Care giving for persons with brain injury or dementia, especially those with severe cases, is more intense and requires more from health care and in home ADL (activities of daily living) providers than is required for most care giving professions.
It is not enough to be a talented CNA, nurse or otherwise accredited health care person. Loving other people and the process of helping others is essential, however, knowing how the brain works in different malfunctions, how to relate, interact and connect is equally important.
Caring for cognitive disability clients requires understanding the brain.
Through a basic knowledge of how the brain gathers, assimilates and stores information and what happens when connections are broken, the caregiver and loved ones can find ways to alleviate the minute to minute challenges that the dementia patient faces.
Educate self and be open minded to research by professionals and ideas of others knowledgeable in the field. Even scientist do not yet have all the answers, however, the experts, such as the Alzheimer’s Association have come a long way in brain function, diseases and disorders. By researching reputable sites on the Internet, by experience and by learning about the persons needs, the caregiver can be extremely effective in helping the client and loved ones.
Realize that every care giving case is different. Take steps to know that person.
Greet each person cordially, as a visitor who has come to spend time with them. Never be too loud for their ability to hear, condescending or overwhelming. Do speak clearly and stand just outside the required space. Find out where the client’s level of comfort is and don’t invade that area. Maintain eye contact unless the client is angry.
Caregivers must interact positively with the broken neurological links.
By finding ways to communicate with broken links, the effective caregiver can guide persons with memory loss through difficult times and buffer the connection between the client and loved ones. It is impossible for the damaged brain to understand reality. It is up to those around them to go to the world where that person lives. It is never effective to openly disagree or argue with the person with dementia. They are desperately clinging to dignity and self worth and need to be validated.
Avoid stress with positive input, laughter and fun activities.
Find ways to alleviate stress over memory loss. Persons with memory loss may know about their diagnosis and this may be extremely stressful. There may not be a lot that the caregiver can do to stop the depression process, however, distractions may help for short periods of time.
Find fun activities that are appropriate for that person in the present phase of loss. Short and decent jokes within the level of understanding, watching a funny sitcom, movie or other media may get the person laughing.
Learn likes and dislikes from family or from the client. Find activities that might interest them in the present phase. Past activities may no longer be valid and new activities may change from time to time. Try music, a T.V. show or reading to soothe, enhance, encourage or start a conversation.
Be aware, watch body language, never argue with the client and listen with an open mind. Learn how to cope with mood swings, changes in personality, increasing bouts of suspicion, withdrawal from communication, and loss of interest in previous activities.
Take care of the caregiver.
Finally, keep self care at the top of the list. A care giver must eat properly, get enough sleep and exercise and down time, and maintain a good health care relationship with physicians, dentist and eye care professionals. If a caregiver is not alert enough to move in the proper manner and make the right decisions, the client care will not be sufficient.
Caregiving 101 at Alz.org
Music Mind and Brain, Musical Knowledge in Dementia, Dementia Research Center, Institute of Neurology October 28th, 2010 by Rohani Omar
A History of Alzheimer’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease Research