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.

  • Every time I visit a home for the aged, it breaks my heart into pieces that families out there could leave their old family relatives to such places even though, they could take care of them. It makes them lonelier to be away from their families and be surrounded with people like them who feel alone and being abandoned by their fam. *sigh* There are oldies who would tell how happy they were that somehow, strangers made time to visit them while their families won't even make time for them. It pinches my heart to know that even old people also badly need the love and warmth of a true family that even how old they are, they're not being left behind. And it's also the same with this case, it's just too heart-breaking especially when they couldn't remember anything about you. šŸ™

    Augustin Ra / Indie Spirit

  • I can totally see where you're coming and I, too, felt that way and still do at times! Americans are quite different than Filipinos in the sense that family members live rather independently, especially their older members and I've noticed that some family members beg their parent to put their other parent in this home mostly because the other couldn't keep up / was losing sleep at night. I mean, some do sundown rather terribly and sometimes, the significant other just gets exhausted and at their age (they're mostly 75 or older, where I work), they just couldn't up. What really bugs me though is how some family members can't even bother to visit, even if just a weekly basis – this is what really gets under my skin. I know everyone's busy but just breaks my heart.

    I will share a cute story! This house/unit is located within a retirement community and when they opened the house, one of my current residents' husband ACTUALLY tried to hide his wife's dementia so she wouldn't get moved there but eventually people caught on to it, she sundowned pretty bad and he moved her to the house. He comes and visits every day, should the weather permit him, and they always go on walks and he stills tells her about what's been going on, despite her losing her speech. It's the cutest thing ever – TRUE LOVE EXISTS YO

  • This is so touching Eena. Working with people with dementia is tough physically and emotionally, I have so much respect for you for working with these people for 2 years. I've taken care of a few patients with dementia during my time working as a healthcare assistant, and like you, I really do hope I'd witness a cure for dementia soon because I saw first-hand that it truly is a horrible thing. :c ā™”

  • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience with this. It can be an incredibly hard thing to try and handle and it sounds like you were offering them really great care. šŸ™‚

  • it's amazing how you can handle these things. If I worked with them, I would seriously cry myself out because my heart is too weak and everyday i'll pity them. You were a part of their lives and that is a beautiful thing. Dementia patients need patience and respect. I salute you for that!

  • Nurses who care for people with dementia do amazing work. I'm on Aged Care right now and I see it everyday – it's pretty heartbreaking.

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