Dementia, or Alzheimer’s Disease, can be a difficult condition for certified nursing assistants to work with on a daily basis. As the disease slowly limits cognitive abilities, patients may only have the view of the world of a small child, and that can cause a multitude of problems.
According to Advances for Long-Term Care Management, one common way to approach these situations is to recognize that patients will have the cognitive abilities of a fifth grader at the start of the dementia progression, and over the course of a few years slowly decline to the abilities of a toddler.
While you still want to treat an adult like an adult, it may help you modify your expectations of what the person can accomplish. For example, an 11-year-old can tie his or her own shoes, but would usually have an adult monitor any medication that they received. As they get older and cognitively younger, the responsibilities of the certified nursing assistant grow.
One advantage for dealing with problematic situations is that a CNA can have multiple chances to fix the problem, especially in the middle stages of the disease. According to the news provider, the length of short-term memory for a middle stage dementia patient is just five minutes. So if you were to say something that set them off, you can let them cool down and work with another patient for a few minutes. Then you can come back and try and take another path.
Like cancer, many scientists argue that dementia will eventually be diagnosed in all elderly patients, if they live long enough. That means that certified nursing assistants should constantly be looking for signs of cognitive issues and considering asking one of their co-workers to perform tests if it seems like the memories or decision-making of patients doesn’t quite match up with reality.
One difficulty for CNA’s may be the family members of dementia patients. It can be horrific to watch a loved one slowly become unable to recognize you, and the stress can be high for these people. At the same time, as a certified nursing assistant, you have to act like a teacher. That is not to say that you’ll be writing how to deal with a patient on a chalkboard. Rather, you need to be able to switch gears from talking with the mental equivalent of a child to a mentally capable adult in relatively short order.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia conditions can be difficult to deal with both for families and caregivers. But understanding what abilities are still available to patients can smooth that over, as can trying a different tack after a cooling off period.