If someone you know or are caring for has begun to show signs of dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease, then it can be a very difficult transition to accept. According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are currently more than 5 million people living with this condition, and that number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million by the year 2050.
Dementia is a slow, irreversible, and degenerative disease that not only destroys a person’s memory but also eventually inhibits them from performing basic human functions. That’s why it's important that if your elderly parents or loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, you should work together to extend their quality of life for as long as possible.
One of the tools that can aide during this difficult time is something called a dementia care plan. In this post, we’ll talk about what that is, why its important, and how you make one.
What is a Dementia Care Plan?
A dementia care plan is a written document that can be used to help caregivers to understand who the patient is and what they need. Generally, this will include details such as:
- Personal information
- Medical needs
- Recommended daily routines
Since it can be very difficult for patients of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to verbally or even accurately communicate this information, this written document serves as a substitute for relaying such important information.
At a minimum, this care plan can be used by caregivers to build meaningful conversations with the patient. Through reading the details provided in the care plan, they can ask them about their family, hobbies, interests, and even past experiences. This will help the caregiver to better understand what makes them tick and improve their bond.
Dementia care plans are similar to nursing care plans or daily care plans. Generally, each of these types of plans will use input from both the family and trained professionals to layout important facts about the reality of the patient’s current condition.
However, a major difference with a dementia care plan is that it should be written in the first person. The idea behind its design is to make it seem as if the patient is telling you in person about their life and how they wish to be cared for.
How Do You Create a Care Plan for Dementia Patients?
Dementia care plans are generally drafted by family members or care teams in conjunction with several other stakeholders from various disciplines. Contributions should be taken from:
- The patient
- Additional family members
- Close friends
- Caregivers who may have experience working with your aging parents
- Family doctors
- Social workers
- Nursing home staff (if the patient is under nursing care)
Since each of these people will have a different view or expertise they can bring to the situation, their combined input will provide for a more complete picture of the overall situation.
What Should a Dementia Care Plan Include?
The content of a dementia care plan should be drafted with the patient’s well-being in mind. At its core, it should convey what the patient needs while still reminding the reader of the patient’s human nature.
Basic information should include:
- Personal details like their name, age, marital status, etc.
- A brief biography about their life and experiences.
- The names of their family members and friends
The care plan can also include information about the patient’s daily routine such as:
- What they like to do or not do
- Activities they like to engage in
- Topics they like to talk about (or what topics to avoid)
- Places they like to go
Additionally, a comprehensive daily care plan will also include more clinical information that can help caregivers, such as:
- Psychosocial and behavioral patterns
- If the patient has any outbursts or episodes
- The frequency of reorientation (if they stray from reality)
- Any issues with walking or mobility
- Dietary schedule including any special needs or allergies to avoid
- Hygiene or toileting needs
- Caregiver support requirements (i.e. if lifting or special medical training is required)
What are Nursing Interventions for Dementia?
If your elderly parents or loved one is under the care of medical professionals at an assisted living facility or nursing home, then there may be times when a nurse needs to intervene. Here are some of the actions from the nursing care plan that you can expect to be taken:
Orienting the patient
Often, dementia patients can lose track of reality and even think they are in the past. When that happens, the nurse will orient the patient back to reality or the current time. This is usually done verbally and assisted by using nearby props such as calendars, TV shows (i.e. the news), or even photos.
The things a dementia patient will say and do are almost always due to the disease and outside of their control. With that in mind, it’s important to never reprimand or react to the patient in a negative way when they behave strangely or say things that don’t make sense. This is why a nurse will use positive reinforcement as they reorient the patient as a way to reward appropriate and desirable behaviors.
Depending on how severe the patient’s dementia has progressed, they may not be able to comprehend certain vocabulary terms or follow complex explanations. For that reason, nurses will often use simple communication techniques with the patient such as speaking slowly and simply. They will also look at them in the face so that they can read facial expressions as well as capture their attention.
Discourage suspicious behavior
Dementia can often lead to thoughts of paranoia or suspicious beliefs that are completely unfounded. If the patient starts to express these opinions or concerns, a nurse will reassure them that there is no danger and that the person in question is completely harmless.
If your elderly parents or loved one exhibits any of these behaviors, be sure to include this information in their dementia care plan so that caregivers know in advance how to best care for them.