How to support clients with dementia

Care Workers April 24, 2018

Over 55% of support workers on Better Caring provide dementia care. With over 425,000 people living with dementia in Australia, there are an estimated 300,000 nationwide support workers for this widespread condition. We’ve compiled some everyday tips to help those with dementia feel comfortable in their environment with the help of one of Better Caring’s dementia support workers, Janelle.

Janelle Begg

Janelle, independent support worker on Better Caring

“Janelle has been providing dementia and aged care to 10 clients through Better Caring since 2015. Before Better Caring, Janelle worked in nursing homes where she gained years of experience in all stages of aged care. In April 2018, she received her Bachelor ofDementia Care after three years of study. Today, Janelle continues to provide specialized dementia care with pride and flair. Below, Janelle has generously shared some tips with the Better Caring team on how she cares for her clients with dementia.”

 

Bring colour into their day

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be a distressing illness for those suffering from it as well as surrounding family, friends and support workers. As a client progresses through the stages of dementia, they may begin to show less interest in eating and drinking – even when mealtime comes around. To ensure her clients make the most of their meals and get the nutrition they need, Janelle adds a generous splash of colour to the dining table. “I use orange placemats, yellow plates and bright flowers because (my clients) like colour.” However, too many elements on the table may unsettle clients with dementia: “You shouldn’t cover the table with too much because it may confuse them and they won’t know where to start”. Dementia may limit an individual’s capabilities and daily routine so putting a spark into simple activities can make them feel invigorated.

Treat your client to something special

In many cases, dementia diminishes a person’s ability to continue hygiene practices. Many people with dementia might find it embarrassing or uncomfortable when receiving assistance to have a bath or shower. Janelle takes the unique approach of giving her clients a “day spa” experience to help tackle their fear of water. “I make sure everything is ready. I let the water run hot, turn the heater and towel racks on and even use electric candles and oil burners.”

Observe and take note of your client’s changes

Dementia can make your clients’ moods unpredictable which can cause confusion for the individual, families and support workers alike. If you visit a client regularly, take note of their personality and challenges that day as compared to other shifts – this will help you discover patterns of behaviour and personalize the support you provide.

Bring brain games into your client’s day

For a bit of added fun and brain exercise, strategy games are ideal. Trivia games designed for dementia like Thinko and brain-training games like Qwirkle work well to create some competition and spark their long-term memory. However, make sure your client is happy to be involved in these games as they may be prone to feeling anxious in competitive situations.

Ask your client to share stories of their past

Although individuals with dementia can suffer from short-term memory loss, they may still retain some of their most treasured long-term memories. To spark some conversation and uplift their mood, simply ask your client about their younger years. You might ask them what they used to do in the school holidays or what their parents or pets were like. Asking them about their past shows you’re interested in their history and personality and it also gives you a chance to find common interests.

Pay attention to your body language and communicate clearly

When you first meet a client with dementia, they may be apprehensive to communicate with you. Maintaining open body language will help to overcome your client’s initial unease about connecting with you. Take the time to face them directly, ensure you’re at their level and sit together quietly to help build that trust and rapport.

Keep your client entertained

If your client isn’t feeling particularly talkative or active, watching a movie or television show or putting on some music to liven up their home usually works well to improve their mood. For a little nostalgia, ask them about their favourite old movie and surprise them later on with a home screening.

Dementia is an unpredictable, interchangeable condition. These ideas may not be applicable to all people with dementia, so if you’re just getting to know a client, it’s important to speak with their next of kin to learn more about their particular needs.

For more information on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, visit Dementia Australia

If you’d like to find out more about Janelle and the services she offers, visit her profile.

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