Florida: Specialized Alzheimer’s Adult Daycare, Level Two (345)Page 17 of 18

16. Concluding Remarks

No matter the setting—at home, adult day care, assisted living, or in a skilled nursing facility—caring for a person experiencing the onset and progression of dementia can be stressful and challenging. Family caregivers are unpaid, largely untrained, and struggle to understand the ups and downs of cognitive decline. Knowing a little bit about the brain changes that occur with dementia and learning the difference between treatable and irreversible aspects of dementia can reduce caregiver stress.

For professional caregivers, learning about dementia will help them in their jobs and help you educate family members. Learning about the physiology of brain deterioration and how the changes affect a person’s behavior, and their ability to communicate and participate in social activities is a must for professional caregivers.

Without a doubt, dealing with behavioral symptoms of dementia is one of the most difficult aspects of family and professional caregiving. Interventions based on person-centered care, meaningful activities, and appropriate physical activity have a profound effect on reducing the challenging behaviors associated with dementia.

Because such a high percentage of people experiencing cognitive decline also have acute and chronic pain, caregivers must understand how pain affects older adults. This is especially true for people with dementia, who often have trouble explaining or describing what they are feeling. Pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic methods for management of pain and discomfort begins with proper assessment and includes an understanding of polypharmacy and drug-drug interactions.

Purposeful, meaningful activities are predictable and relaxing. A well-designed physical environment, easy-to-use assistive equipment, and other well thought out technologies promote independence and can significantly reduce stress for people with dementia and their caregivers.

Common sense, education, and respect for caregivers will improve the way we have been approaching the care of people with dementia. Much of what we have accepted in the past—antipsychotics, restraints, and warehousing of older adults with dementia simply does not work. There is no doubt that learning about cognitive decline and implementing a person-centered, thoughtful approach to care is urgently needed.