Working with Dementia

As I begin to close this chapter of my life, I felt that it was necessary to share my story, my experience. For the past two years, I worked with the elderly who were diagnosed with dementia, or some form of it.

What is dementia? Dementia is a general term that describes a group of symptoms, such as loss of memory, judgment, language, complex motor skills, and other intellectual function, caused by the permanent damage or death of the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons. In fact, several diseases can actually lead to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease which happens to be the most common and leading cause of dementia.

In the two years I’ve worked with these residents, I’ve learned so much about the disease, about my residents and about myself.

  • There will always be good days and bad days. And by this I mean, my residents can wake up in the most cheerful moods, get themselves dressed and get on with their days. With that, there will always be days where it’s a struggle to get them up in the morning, where they scream and kick at you but it’s just a bad day.
  • Talk to them with respect. I cannot stress this enough. So many times, I witness coworkers baby-talk these residents and it is not cool. Absolutely disgusting, and just degrading.
  • They may not always remember who you are, but they will recognize your face.
  • Spend time to get to know them. Take notice of what they like to eat, what they like to do – it makes everything so much easier. Also, it never hurts to ask their families questions about what they did back in the day. I always take time to get to know my residents through their families and it warms my heart knowing how much they’ve accomplished in their lives, and how loved they are. I also go through their photo albums they have on display in their rooms and it makes me so happy. It also never hurts to talk to the residents as well. Some of them may be incoherent with their words or unable to talk, but they do understand you. The can still hear you.
  • You get attached to them. This is the most important thing I’ve learned. I know I’ll be moving on to a different job soon, but every time I think about it, I die a little inside. I’ve gotten so attached to these residents, and I know I’ll miss them tremendously.

Dementia is such a horrible thing. I hope that in my career as a nurse, however long it may be, that I witness progress or a cure for dementia because it’s a terrible thing to be living in a world where your friends and family don’t exist.

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