In the last 5-10 years, there has been a lot of interest and work in supporting intergenerational relationships and care for people living in aged care facilities (nursing homes), with and without dementia.
This week, we are pleased to feature a guest blog written by Jeremy Raynolds, who is a third-year psychology student at Washington State.
Jeremy has a strong interest in gerontology studies and often volunteers in nursing homes and care centers. He occasionally blogs about his work and experiences, and gets the help with writing from edubirdie. His aim is to develop a strategy accessible to anyone who has people with dementia in their care. We thank Jeremy for writing this guest blog, and for his interest in gerontology, and particularly in positively supporting people diagnosed with dementia.
Working and supporting people with dementia as a student
By Jeremy Raynolds © 2018
Aging is a natural process that affects everyone, but, of course, every case is unique. In this article, we will touch upon a very specific topic – caring for people with dementia, the type of brain disease that affects thinking abilities, memory capabilities and emotional stability. It is especially challenging, and requires a special approach and set of skills. Today we are focusing on advice for students who are willing to volunteer or do an internship in an Alzheimer’s care center or nursing home that deals with dementia. This is a very noble, yet difficult task that deserves praise as well as support from specialists and society.
Caring for the elderly is not an easy task. You sometimes have to deal with grumpiness, sicknesses, and various emotional and psychological issues. However, it goes without saying that caring for older patients with dementia may be harder. Pressure can build from constant repetition due to memory issues experienced by people with dementia, as well as unstable emotional backgrounds and the fears that come along with the work atmosphere at care centers. So it is extremely important to support and provide reasonable assistance to those students who decide to take up this task.
The disease also raises many social issues, as people with dementia can be isolated and treated unfairly, and the question of human rights arises from the cognitive deprivation aspects of dementia. Due to these reasons, proper care, destigmatization of the problem and acceptance are essential to the issue.
The vital characteristics of caring for people with dementia are compassion, understanding, and patience—a lot of patience.
Try to think of them as people with different processes that they need to go through and do not expect them to act like other older people. They may need more time to make a decision, more time to process some things and they may ask you the same thing repeatedly. But when you recognize where this comes from and make room for a patient and kind response, everything works out perfectly.
Supporting people with this disease can be broken down into small parts. For instance, communication is extremely important – everyone needs human touch and connection, including people who live with dementia. You can find out the topics that interest this particular person and embrace them, even though the conversation might not be as smooth and consistent as usual. But it is a true charity to set aside your frustrations and personal issues and selflessly connect with a person in need of communication.
Of course, it is important to know your limits. Do not make work your entire existence; it puts you at risk of burning out and damaging your own mental and emotional state. Take it slow and remember to take breaks and “switch off” for a while. Refresh yourself with some totally random activity or other to reprogram your mind and body. It could be a close set of exercises or a few pages from a book, a walk outside or a coffee break.
Consider this work as a partnership.
You meet the need for socializing and connection for people with dementia, and they provide you with an infinite learning opportunity.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a future social worker, a psychology student, or a medical student – practice is the best teacher. No matter how many books and theories you have gone through, practical approach grants you with precious skills and knowledge. It is a good reason to be grateful for such an opportunity.”
We have invited Jeremy, and hope he will find time next year to present on this topic at one of our Webinars.