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Home Care Expert Insights

In Conversation with Jeannie Finnegan to Bring Her Insights on Supporting Seniors with Dementia

As dementia progresses, individuals may experience confusion, memory loss, and disorientation. Families and caregivers can help them maintain their sense of security and dignity by providing a safe and supportive environment.

This includes setting routines, adapting homes for safety, and offering activities that are interesting and bring comfort and familiarity. Further, emotional support is vital. Patience, understanding, and clear communication are key to navigating the challenges of dementia.

By providing resources, respite care, and educational programs, we can empower caregivers to care more effectively for individuals with dementia.

Lastly, supporting those with dementia fosters a more compassionate society and ensures a better quality of life for a growing segment of our population.

To shed some light on the same, we interviewed a home care industry expert to bring her perspective on caring for older adults with dementia.

Expert QA session with Jeannie Finnegan

Who Did We Interview?

Jeannie Finnegan is a geriatric care manager, guest speaker, & dementia care consultant at Stanton Aging Solutions, which helps seniors and their families find the best holistic solutions for aging care needs.

Jeannie’s career is based on her core belief that providing specialized dementia care, therapeutic strategies, and enhanced connection can make a world of difference to clients and their families.

Let us now delve into what she has to say about caring for seniors with dementia.

Question 1. What, in your opinion, can caregivers do to support seniors with dementia?

Caregivers can best serve seniors with dementia when they receive quality training in specialized dementia care. It gives caregivers the tools and strategies to communicate optimally, manage challenging behaviors, and engage their clients in meaningful activities.

Individuals with dementia need to feel connected with their caregivers, family members, and friends. Meaningful activities and person-centered care will help them better connect with the world around them and the people in their lives.

Question 2. Do individuals with dementia need to make lifestyle changes to minimize the impact?

Seniors with dementia can cope more effectively when they follow set routines, utilize calendars that they and their caregivers/families can help them manage, and use reminders, notes, signage, lists, etc. to stay organized and remember important tasks.

In addition, they must have a healthy diet, stay hydrated, and exercise daily. Also, social connection and meaningful activities help them maintain function for as long as possible while also providing comfort through connecting with others.

Question 3. How should family members and caregivers communicate with individuals with dementia?

When communicating with someone with dementia, we should be POSITIVE, approach them at eye level with a smile, and keep questions and instructions simple. It is never helpful to correct someone with dementia or say something like, “I already told you that, remember?” or try to convince them of an argument you are making.

Understand that someone with dementia often has trouble with memory, logic, judgment, and reasoning. Therefore, trying to reason with them is often futile.

Empathy and compassion need to be our guide. Understand the condition itself is usually the cause of communication difficulties, memory loss, repeated questions or stories, etc. The seniors with dementia are not trying to be difficult!

Question 4. Do caregivers and family members need to take steps to make the elderly’s house dementia friendly? (You can talk about making houses safe to prevent hazards).

A dementia-friendly home has good lighting and a comfortable temperature. Rather than merely offering television, some of which might be disturbing or confusing to someone with dementia, offer them the music they enjoy instead. For example, turn on a cable music channel with the genre they most enjoy, show them musical YouTube videos, sing old songs or hymns with them, or watch a musical movie with them!

Make sure the flooring in the home is free of trip hazards like scatter rugs, clutter, too much furniture, etc. Depending on how far the dementia has progressed, it might be appropriate to disconnect the oven/stove and microwave to eliminate any hazards.

The goal is safety first. Signage can help a client in the home, such as a sign that says “Put eyeglasses here” and in the bathroom, “Make sure to brush your teeth!” It is also a huge help to have a large digital clock that displays the time, date, and day of the week, and some even include the daily weather. Hang a white board or bulletin board with important telephone numbers and notes or messages.

A photo frame that scrolls through digital photographs is a nice addition, and many allow family members to send photographs to the frame remotely.

Question 5. What advice do you give to caregivers dealing with older adults with dementia?

  • Get as much dementia care training as you can.
  • See your clients as the whole person they are – learn about their lives and experiences, their preferences and interests, and past hobbies.
  • Be positive – clients with dementia often reflect our own emotions and expressions, so if you approach them with a smile and upbeat attitude, they will respond similarly.
  • Be patient!
  • Be compassionate
  • Treat your client the way you would want your parent to be treated.
  • Engage your client in activities they find meaningful – this is a MUCH more pleasant and rewarding way to spend your time with your client.
  • Take them on walks outdoors, make a flower arrangement, do a jigsaw puzzle with them, bake cookies with them, sort coins or buttons or play simple card games, roll socks, fold laundry, ask them to help with housekeeping or kitchen tasks, read to them, listen to music they enjoy and sing/dance with them! Invite them to do the everyday things they once did, such as setting the table, sweeping, reading the paper to them, etc.

In Conclusion

Caregivers can support seniors with dementia by obtaining specialized training, fostering meaningful connections, and providing person-centered care, ensuring the dignity of the individual. Meanwhile, individuals with dementia can minimize the impact of their condition through lifestyle changes such as following routines, staying organized, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in social activities.

Communication with individuals with dementia should be positive, simple, and empathetic. Further, caregivers and family members must make homes dementia-friendly. It involves ensuring safety, comfort, and familiarity. Family caregivers should ensure that their loved one is seen regularly by their primary care provider and neurologist, as appropriate.

Lastly, caregivers should treat their clients with patience, compassion, and respect, engaging them in meaningful activities. Overall, a holistic approach that addresses physical, mental, and emotional health can significantly enhance the quality of life for seniors with dementia.

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Want to contribute to our expert insights for the 'Home Care Q/A' series?

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