The onset of dementia
Dementia is a progressive disorder. As the disease progresses, a person with dementia relies on others to help him or her find meaningful ways to stay engaged and encouraged. The lack of meaningful engagement may sometimes lead to challenging behaviour and depression. Many seniors who have previously led very active lives often find themselves bored and irritable.
The septuagenarian with Parkinson’s
Nalinikant Burra, engaged a certified nursing assistant from Life Circle, a home nursing care provider, for his father Narsimha Rao. Rao is 74 years old and living with Parkinson’s disease and suffers from dementia as a result of it. In addition to gait- and balance-related issues, he suffers from anxiety, irritability, depression, irregular sleep pattern, visual hallucinations and cognitive impairment.
Narsimha Rao looks forward to a stroll on his wheelchair in the evenings. He also enjoys playing chess and Chinese checkers. The full-time home attendant from Life Circle plays along. Many-a-times, instead of playing he sorts the Chinese Checker pieces according to its colour. The aim is not to reach the end of the game – to win or to lose – but to provide mental stimulation for the senior and nurture a feeling of positivity in him.
The senior with dementia and “doll therapy”
Shakunthala, another senior living with dementia, has been availing the home care services of Life Circle for two and a half years. Suman Priya, her home attendant during the early stages of dementia engaged her in different activities throughout the day. Shakunthala was very fond of cooking and tidying up. The caregiver would involve her in small tasks like cleaning green leafy vegetables and plucking out the leaves from the stem. She would offer assistance as and when it was required. The aim was not to correct her or make her do it properly. She would also engage the senior in folding a small pile of clothes. Every day, they would take a walk and also read the newspaper together. As the disease progressed, the senior has not been able to do many things that she did previously like folding clothes or cleaning leafy vegetables. Nowadays, she flips through her granddaughter’s picture books or clings onto a particular soft toy. Sometimes, she even strokes the toy or speaks to it. The use of “doll therapy” for people living with dementia has been associated with improvement in general well-being and bringing down episodes of distress.
In the words of a familial caregiver
Anunaya Jain who engaged a certified nursing assistant from Life Circle last year for his grandmother who was living with dementia said, “The main purpose of getting help from Life Circle for ourselves was to lessen the load on our parents. We just wanted someone not just to care for our grand mom but also engage her in a socially meaningful manner. Over a period of 5 months, we saw lot of changes in grand mom. From being completely socially disinterested, she became slightly cheerful. She would look forward to going down (for a stroll in the wheelchair). She had a routine. Overall, not just the care given to our grand mom, but the overall quality of life changed for our entire family. (It) was the biggest gain from engaging Ranju (the caregiver from Life Circle).”
Preparatory session for the caregiver
At Life Circle, we counsel caregivers so that they genuinely understand that challenging behaviour is the result of an underlying neurological condition. By talking with family members we understand what the senior enjoys doing and also understand their physical limitations. Keeping that in mind we help our caregivers plan out activities to engage the senior on a daily basis. Some activities may seem meaningless to a caregiver, but we explain to them to not be judgmental but empathetic.