Patient Centric Dementia Care

September 24, 2013

The feedback we get from many sources is that it’s easy for the medical establishment to be dismissive of dementia and the unique psychological needs of  people with the disease.

Because there is no cure for dementia, patient-centric care is the most appropriate form of treatment.  Unfortunately, in a medical culture accustomed to solving problems with medications or procedures, there is little room for patient-centric care.

Elderly Senior Home Care Couple AutumnA recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reviewed studies involving nearly 2,000 dementia sufferers and their caregivers in the UK, Australia, Canada and the US.  The major conclusion is that even though dementia sufferers are losing cognitive ability, some aspects of personhood must be respected.  These include dignity, life story and family relationships.

The authors also noted that doctors knew very little about dementia and that when they communicated with their patients, they tended to do so in terms that were hard to understand.  No surprise, given that dementia is a huge catch all for a variety of mental disabilities.  And while the medical establishment has gotten pretty good at diagnosing the particular flavor of dementia that someone might have (Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, fronto-temporal, dementia pugilistica, Lewy Body disease, etc.), the sad truth is that we know little about what causes the diseases and we have no cures.

In our home care agency here in Chapel Hill, NC, the adage we follow is”  “It’s not about the cure.  It’s about the care”.

Experts are in agreement that any breakthrough that may occur today will not be commercially available in the lifetimes of those who currently suffer from dementia.  As a result, we need to focus on the care.  And if a cure may defined as “elimination of symptoms”, the curious thing is that proper care is a cure.  When a caregiver tries to understand the history and background of the dementia sufferer, she is better able to interact with the patient and assuage her fears and concerns.   When fears and anxieties subside, the dementia patient acts more normally.

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