Patience is Key to Handling Residents with Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Anyone who has a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia knows how heartbreaking and stressful the illness can be. Megan is a CNA and Med Aide at the Good Samaritan Colonial Villa. She works with residents who have Alzheimer’s and dementia on a daily basis. Even she admits when her career first started seven years ago, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to handle the difficulties of working with residents suffering from the disease. But over time, finding the positive things helped turn her job into a rewarding experience.

“You have to look at the positive. I feel like it’s a reward knowing that I get to care for these people every day. They become like family, like my second family. I do even have some residents who will tell me, I love you, and to me that is a reward,” said Megan. She says knowing her job makes a difference in their life every day is part of what she loves about her job.

But the nature of Alzheimer’s and dementia can make her job challenging. She says there are residents who are unable to recognize her some days. The nature of Alzheimer’s can also cause fits of anger. But Megan says part of staying upbeat is remembering that residents are often feeling scared because of their illness. In fact, clear communication often helps reassure residents who may feel confused or scared.

“First of all, I always explain to every resident what I’m going to do. In the middle of the care, I reassure again. I tell them I’m here to help you and this is what we’re trying to get done. I make sure we explain the process to them thoroughly,” said Megan.

Megan says many of the residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia benefit from having familiar objects in their room. She recommends using pictures to help a loved one remember family members. In fact, keeping some of the hobbies patients used to enjoy alive can help keep them positive. One resident at the home enjoys sewing while another has a favorite stuffed animal. Providing baby dolls also helps lift the self-esteem of women who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

“Ladies especially enjoy the baby, because they feel like it’s a real baby they’re taking care of. We have a lady here that does something similar to quilting to keep herself busy. It seems to work for her. Try to remember what they did before. Talk to the families and find out what they enjoyed. That’s the best thing to keep them positive,” said Megan.

What’s the final take away? Remember that someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia is not always aware of their actions. Often anger is caused by feeling scared or confused. Megan says she has to always remember that the disease is often to blame for negative behavior such as hitting. Instead she recommends remembering that a patient with Alzheimer’s is not trying to ruin your day or even aware of their negative behavior. Above all, she says having a support system is key to staying positive when dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

“Make sure you have a support system because you can’t do it alone. So even if you need to talk to someone else; make sure you do communicate with people about what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. If you need a break, you need a break,” said Megan.

-a the word changes contributor

Antoinette Rodney

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