Caring for Loved Ones with Dementia


Last posted by Clinton Botha | randfonteinherald

Dementia, a condition associated with a decline in cognitive or mental functioning that occurs particularly in the elderly, can be bewildering and exceptionally challenging to deal with, not just for the individual concerned, but also for their families and loved ones. This according to Emmie Jackson, a health risk assessor and care coordinator in private practice, who is partnered with the Livewell Group, an organisation that specialises in dementia care.

“The literature informs us that dementia is often an exceptionally tough health syndrome for everyone involved, and we as professionals in the field see its devastating effects, because it often results in the affected individual’s memory and cognitive functioning becoming eroded over time, and may ultimately completely rob them of their independence,” she said.

Emmie is also a registered psychiatric nurse and has considerable experience in working with people living with dementia. She said while there is a lack of accurate statistics regarding the numbers who are impacted by dementia, as opposed to age-related cognitive and physical decline, it is a syndrome increasingly diagnosed among the elderly.

“In the later stages of dementia, the affected individual may experience severe memory loss, mood swings, and even have difficulties communicating with and relating to others. They may also struggle to complete even the simplest of daily activities, including taking care of themselves,” she added.

“The lack of knowledge and support, and of understanding what to expect from the future, often places considerable emotional stress on families who care for them within the home environment, particularly as the primary carer is likely to be juggling other daily demands such as work and taking care of the needs of other family members.

“It can also represent a growing financial burden, as the individual is likely to require special facilities and arrangements to remain safe, stimulated and healthy. Many may require a full-time nurse, or need to be cared for at a dedicated facility,” she added.

“While dementia is sadly still considered incurable and progressively erodes memory, other cognitive and physical functions, various medications and therapies are available today to manage some of the complex difficulties and symptoms.

Depending on the underlying causes of the symptoms, such as acute delirium (confusion) caused as a result of dehydration and infection, some symptoms can be reversed, or debilitating problems such as memory loss, can at least be delayed from progressing, she said. Many of the conditions associated with dementia such as depression can also often be successfully treated and managed, and the individual’s quality of life meaningfully improved.

“In other words, much can be done for most people with dementia, particularly when the syndrome and its underlying causes are identified at an early stage. For these reasons it is important for elderly individuals who are showing signs of cognitive decline be assessed by a healthcare practitioner who has experience in elder care,” Emmie explained.


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