While my education on eldercare has been basically on the job training, I’ve run across a few things that seemed odd. It took a while to figure out if my previous beliefs were true or not. Here are a few, see how many you can get right.
Full time care doesn’t mean nights.
Locking medications up isn’t necessary.
Dementia doesn’t mean stupid.
Sometimes a dementia patient seems rational.
Redirection doesn’t work.
Hallucinations and delusions are common.
Full time care doesn’t mean nights. This is false. Full time care means 24/7/365. The only difference is that sometimes the caregiver can sleep at night and at other times they can’t. Getting out of bed in the middle of the night is a major fall hazard.
Locking up medications isn’t necessary. This varies according to the situation, but to be safe I’d call that one false. The reason for that is you can’t tell when a patient is going to slip that next level of dementia and accidentally overdose. We have two boxes, one for the daily pills and one for the prescription bottles. We set this system up for two reasons. The first was a caregiver who purposely overdosed the patient and the second was when she found the pill planner. Please learn from our experience.
Dementia doesn’t mean stupid: Oh, is this ever true. A dementia patient has all the knowledge gained throughout life and none of the inhibitions an adult should exercise. Our patient knows how to manipulate, cause guilt trips and hurt feelings. She also does all three. This is why she needs the 24/7 awake care.
Redirection doesn’t work. This is false. Done properly, redirection can make the difference between real agitation and keeping the patient calm.
Sometimes a dementia patient can seem rational. This is also true. Dementia isn’t a gradual slide straight down, it’s wavy. You may be able to converse reasonably today and the patient will have no memory the conversation ever took place tomorrow. In fact, as dementia gets worse, that memory may not last five minutes.
Hallucinations and delusions are common. This is again both true and false. In the beginning, it is unlikely. As the condition worsens it becomes more likely. There are a few who never have them. Our patient isn’t one of them. She is already seeing people that aren’t there. This can scare those who are taking care of her, particularly when it happens at night.
Eldercare is a difficult field for everyone. That includes the paid caregivers; they come to love their patients and yet they know the end is likely to be the patient’s death. It’s hard for the family caregiver because the patient is slowly dying. It’s hard to watch someone you love go from a strong, healthy person slowly disintegrate.
It’s also hard for the patient. The lack of privacy and the fear that something is seriously wrong are hard to take. If you find yourself taking care of an elderly friend or relative, learn all you can so that you are as prepared as possible for the outcome.