Approximately 5.8 million people in the United States live with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. And the majority of these people live in their own homes during their illness- even during the most advanced stages and at end-of-life.
Caring at home for someone with dementia isn’t always an easy task- it involves a lot of complexities and ever-changing care needs. Caregiving often falls on the shoulders of family members until a professional in-home caregiver takes charge of the health and well-being of the elderly with dementia.
And, while caregiving is rewarding, caregivers often experience burnout and experience more significant health problems- physical & emotional burdens and financial strains. In addition, dementia care involves caring for two people- the person with dementia and the person caring for them.
To shed some light on the same, we interviewed a home care industry expert to bring her perspective on dementia care to light.
Dr. Jennifer Stelter is a Clinical Psychologist and Johns Hopkins Press author specializing in dementia and mental health care. She has 20 years of experience in the healthcare field and over a decade in the long-term care industry.
She is the co-owner and CEO of NeuroEssence, LLC and owner and CEO of The Oil Doctor, Psy.D., LLC, the Director of Product Research for Linked Senior, the Chief Engagement Officer of the Resident Engagement Institute, an Adjunct Professor at Ivy Tech Community College, a Staff Psychologist at Allow Wellness, and a Neuro-Evaluator for Care Navigators. In addition, she is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer, Dementia Connection Specialist & Master Trainer, and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional.
Let’s get started with knowing what our expert thinks of the home care industry:
The best investment caregivers can make to support seniors with dementia is to invest in their dementia education and training. Understanding the disease and what happens as it progresses is
half the battle. Then, learning about and building a toolbox they can use daily will help them feel purposeful in caregiving. If they have quality education and a toolbox, they will feel more confident and competent in their role as a caregiver. They will feel like they are winning, and so will the person living with dementia.
We all can benefit from healthier lifestyle choices to lower our risk of developing the disease. So yes, even those living with dementia can benefit from these more proactive choices, like eating within the Mediterranean diet, exercising at least 2.5 hours a week, playing brain games three times a week for 30 minutes, sleeping 7-8 hours a night, and using essential oils daily like Turmeric, Lavender, and more.
The best way to communicate and connect with someone living with dementia is through their five senses. Within the Dementia Connection Model© that I created, a person with dementia is going to
use their senses to navigate their world now. By focusing on what their five senses are experiencing and trying our best to create positive stimuli, this will then influence them to feel positive feelings, create positive memories, and show positive response behaviors.
Therefore, when communicating, ensure you have a smile on your face. You are looking at them at eye level (visual stimulation), speak calmly and in short sentences (auditory stimulus), present a hand to hold or a rub on their back (tactile stimulation), offer their favorite beverage or snack when conversing (gustatory stimulation), and diffuse calming essential oils like lavender in the room (olfactory stimulation). And there is your toolbox for communicating!
Yes, it is best to create a positive environment to ensure their ability to thrive and promote independence while staying safe. Think sensory-based products and design again. Light blue walls, flooring with minimal to no designs in it, interactive and safe items for them to use that they like- books, art supplies, etc., colored toilet seats, and much more. Lock up unsafe items. Install cameras on the outside of the house. Have a GPS tracking system that can be easily used in a shoe or wrist. Use bold-colored plate ware. These are some simple things that can be done.
Continue to educate yourself and fill your toolbox with non-pharmacological tools, as the caregiver needs to keep adjusting as the disease progresses, not the person living with dementia. We can adapt but they cannot.
Making health care decisions for someone incapable of doing so can be overwhelming. That’s why it is vital to plan health care directives. To prepare for the future, start discussions well ahead of time and consider enlightening yourself about legal and financial matters.
Educating yourself about your loved one’s disease will set you up for success, as well as your loved one, as you navigate through this journey.
Our users reported 95% customer satisfaction in 2022. Schedule a personal walkthrough to see CareSmartz360 in action.