How Care Nurses can help Dementia patients’ quality of life

According to an article by the authors Catharine Jenkins and Bernie Keenan, building a therapeutical relationship between care nurses and patients can make a massive difference to the lives of people with Dementia.

As per 31st of January, this year, 429 858 people in the UK have been diagnosed with dementia, 61.4% of them are aged 65+. As patients with dementia are a challenge for the nursing and caring personnel, specialists recommend using a person-centred approach; which involves developing a therapeutic relationship and getting to know the individual’s life story and preferences. In order to achieve this, nurses could work closely with the families and familiarise themselves with the statements of the Dementia Action Alliance (2010).

There is no treatment for dementia, but there are medications that can slow its effects. Nurses have to be familiar with its use and impact to discuss its use with the patients and their families. It is also crucial for the nurse to monitor the regularity of taking medicine, as patients may forget or get confused; forgetting they already took a dosage earlier. 

Nurses can help patients by ensuring they have their hearing aids and glasses and encouraging them to participate in discussions and conversations. As many dementia patients cannot express pain verbally, they tend to show it through their body language including behaviours challenging for the nurse.

If pain is suspected, nurses need to seek more information from the care personnel. Toothache, for example, will be connected to reduced food intake. The Pain Assessment in Advanced Dementia Scale helps assess pain levels and can be helpful for patients with communication difficulties.

The relationship between the nurses and dementia patients is an important therapeutic tool central to high-quality care. A few basic rules can help establish such relationship as:

–         use simple words and short sentences

–         speak warm and smile during conversation

–         give them time to reply and lessen carefully

–         look for non-verbal communication

–         respond to emotions

If the patient in later stages is looking for their deceased family members it is important to comfort not confront them, and turn their attention to another subject.

A quiet and comfortable environment, with sunlight and muted colours, are essential for the quality of life of dementia patients. Putting labels and personal items around the living area helps patients recognize the space as their own.

The Alzheimer’s Society’s (2016) ‘This is Me‘ document helps record individuals’ personal hygiene preferences and collecting information that can be used to build rapport: this could include hobbies, whether the person has or had any pets, and knowing which music they find distracting and relaxing.

Read the original article in Nursing times magazine