Elder Care: Working With Memory Loss Patients
The keys to elder care are patience, respect and common courtesy. Combine these attitudes with an uplifting spirit can serve to offer elderly patients bright lights in otherwise dark days of memory loss and confusion.
When faced with the challenges of caring for an elderly patient suffering the effects of memory loss conditions such as senile dementia, vascular dementia, or Alzheimer’s, it to re-frame the situation as an opportunity to be present with the patient in his or her current state without judgment.
Increasingly, experts are recognizing the importance of attitudes and demeanor when interacting with memory loss patients. Sometimes it can be as simple as a smile, an unexplained laugh, or a positive presence to brighten a patient’s day.
While caring for an elderly patient, it is important to understand the importance seeing them as people who have lived eventful lives, much of which they may not recall. Comments such as “Do you remember” or questions referring to past events often serve as a quick, effective reminder to the patient that memory issues are present and often lead to frustration and depression in the patient. Instead, caregivers might consider talking openly about such events knowing there is a possibility it will sound like a new story. Other times, it may spark a memory the patient can then retell to an enthusiastic and attentive audience.
If the elderly patient suffers from expressive issues such as aphasia, patience is vitally important. Being able to sit quietly while affording the patient time to make the connections to find the words, allows time for the patient to process information, which may work as a mental exercise. If the patient is unable to find the words, they will often either tell the caregiver or signal via body language that they are at a loss for words. Then, it is okay to make verbal suggestions to fill the gap.