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Caregiver Burnout and Dementia
Written By : Susan K. Ross 
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Patients with dementia can be among the most challenging types of patients to care for. Even the best intentioned person can get frustrated when the patient acts out or refuses to cooperate. Remember, the behaviors a person shows are parts of the disease and not aimed at you personally.

  • Stay calm and be understanding. Raising your voice or showing signs of frustration will only make the situation worse.
  • Be patient and flexible. If the patient absolutely refuses to get in the shower, maybe a good bed bath will work for today and he can shower tomorrow.
  • Don't argue or try to convince the person. The patient cannot reason and may not be able to understand what is obvious to you.
  • Respond to patient requests as long as no harm will come. If the patient insists on wearing her shirt backwards that may be the way she wears it today.
  • Take a moment to re-charge. If you feel your frustration and anxiety rising, ensure the patient is safe and walk away and take a few deep breaths before you return. This may be a good break for the patient, too.

Patients with dementia are at higher risk of elder abuse than other seniors. Educate all members of the family regarding some of the signs and symptoms of potential abuse, neglect and caregiver burnout. Some possible examples of abuse and neglect may be:

  • New cuts or bruises
  • The patient showing fear towards their family members or professional caregivers
  • Finding the patient wet or soiled often
  • Always finding the patient wearing the same soiled clothing
  • Little or no food in the home or lack of prescribed medications

Do not automatically jump to conclusions, but don't be afraid to ask questions. Caregiver burnout and distress is common in family members of patients with dementia, especially as the disease progresses. Family members should not judge, but should be there to provide support and relief when needed. Assist in identifying community resources before they are needed. A medical social worker can often help with this process. Dementia is often a misunderstood disorder. Good communication between all family members can go a long way to provide the best possible care for the patient. Educate all members of the family regarding the challenges that they may encounter. Coordinate visits between family members so that the patient is not overwhelmed by too many visitors at one time. Help family members to understand that the patient's behavior may vary from one day to the next so that they understand the changes.

Providing care for the patient with dementia can be difficult and challenging at times. These patients require extra understanding and patience. As the incidence of people with dementia rises in the United States, it is important that we understand the disease and how to care for people with the disease.

  About Author
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