For caregivers who take care of people with dementia, it is important to have in place an effective dementia care plan to ensure consistent care at all times. Through education, awareness and support, an informed caregiver is better able to deal with any issues that arise.
Below is a set of four practical considerations for creating your own plan. This can be tailored appropriately to suit the individual needs of the person in your care.
1. Management of Behavioral Expressions
People with dementia often exhibit a variety of behaviors ranging from apathy to aggression. Recognizing patternsi and being able to associate specific behaviors with types of dementia takes skill, training and awareness. An important aspect of a useful dementia care plan is recognition and management of such behavioral expressions.
A caregiver should be able to assist in daily activities while recognizing the person’s need to exercise independence, uphold privacy and engage in social interactions. The caregiver also must develop the ability to identify and avoid circumstances that may provoke aggression. Instead, the caregiver can facilitate the expression of thoughts in a positive manner, engaging in physical exercise and social activities.
FOR YOUR TOOLKIT: A diary in which to record significant changes in behavior. With time, the diary will begin to provide valuable insights. IAM-CARE provides a Health tool to better keep track of changes in behavioral expressions and report functions to more easily identify and communicate patterns with your care team and doctors – find out more »
2. Overcoming Communication Challenges
Caregivers must be able to distinguish between genuine communication problems in people with dementia versus other health problems, such as the side-effects of medication, aphasia or another medical conditions. You may wish to learn how to interact using pictures and non-verbal communication.
Communication also extends to the caregiver’s wider support network, such as other family members, professional caregivers and nursing home staff, as well as any nurses and doctors who treat and attend to the person’s health and wellbeing on a regular basis.
FOR YOUR TOOLKIT: A contact list with telephone numbers, email addresses and best times to reach people in the support network. A network such as IAM-CARE provides another way to stay in contact with other caregivers, including tools for storing emergency contact information within the person’s health account. Local support organizations offer ‘hotlines’ to call for support; which are highly recommended.
3. Awareness and Training
In order to offer the best possible care, it is essential that caregivers educate themselves on the type of dementia the person has been diagnosed with, as well as, their medical history and any other co-existing health conditions.
Education must be a significant part of an effective dementia care plan – this can include using online resources, speaking with doctors and family members, and attending seminars or workshops. Many countries also have state-led awareness initiativesii.
FOR YOUR TOOLKIT: A list of educational resources – such as the IAM-CARE knowledgebase – plus a calendar of upcoming events, seminars, workshops and webinars you might like to participate in. Most program organizers are aware that it might be difficult for you to leave the home or find time in your busy schedule, so ask them for materials, session recordings and flexible date/times for attendance.
Finally, no dementia care plan would be complete without a clearly-defined and well-established support system agreed upon by all involved. Caregiving for people with dementia can be exhausting, so it is crucial that you have time to rest and look after your own emotional and physical wellbeing.
FOR YOUR TOOLKIT: Calling on your diary once again, set aside time each day to rest your mind and body, then commit to it. If you have other family caregivers to support you, ensure responsibilities are shared and that everyone has enough time for themselves. Days off and holidays away should not be seen as impossible, nor should you feel guilty, it is important that you care for yourself, which in turn allows you to provide better care for the person with dementia.
You may also with to add to your toolkit our FREE ebook You and Your Family: An Empowered Approach to Dementia includes lots of information and practical advice on how to educate and involve every member of your family as caregivers, including children of all ages. Download it for free today and take an empowered approach to dementia.