Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dementia (Alzheimer’s) Caregiving with Understanding and Patience (Video 5:31 mins.)

Dementia refers to a group of conditions that gradually destroy brain cells and lead to mental decline. Many conditions can cause dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, this disease, which advances at different rates, destroys memory and the ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate, and perform daily activities. Patients may also experience changes in behavior and personality such as anxiety and delusions.

Dementia is like a fluttering bee. As a hospice volunteer in nursing homes, I never knew when it would make honey or sting. There were times when residents with dementia were rude or violent. I have seen one slap a CNA’s (certified nursing assistant) face with such force I thought the CNA would fall over. To her credit, she took a deep breath and walked away while another CNA intervened.

Residents with dementia enjoyed talking about the past and embellishing their stories. Sometimes they remembered detailed incidents from childhood and minutes later couldn’t remember where they were. They needed encouragement when they became afraid. I tried to analyze what caused certain behaviors. Distractions helped them change their thoughts. Just like everyone else, they felt respected when their opinions mattered. I let them make some decisions, usually limiting the choices to two, so they wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.

Caregivers and other loved ones of those with dementia have to remind themselves often that patients’ repetitious questions and other unintentional behaviors are manifestations of the disease. This video titled “What is that?” reminds them (and all of us) to dig deeply into wells of themselves for understanding and patience.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.


  1. That's was truly a worthy 5 minutes. Thanks. Maike.

  2. I am happy to find so many useful information here in the post, thanks for sharing. free cna training

  3. Caring for a spouse, parent or a loved one with memory loss, Alzheimer's disease or any other types of dementia requires a commitment to cope each day with patience, compassion and flexibility.

    Alzheimer Clinic