What is a Dementia Caregiver?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A dementia caregiver is anyone who renders consistent care to a person with dementia. This could be a professional assistant in the home, people working in convalescent homes that treat patients with dementia, or it is very often a family member of the person who has dementia, which may be caused by a variety of conditions including Alzheimer’s disease. The difficulty of delivering this kind of care is very obvious. Those with dementia, especially in advanced stages, may require relatively constant vigilance so that their health and safety are protected, in addition to needing many basic care elements like feeding, changing, and cleaning. Given these needs, it is fairly easy for caregivers to experience a great deal of emotional strain, which is only exacerbated if the person cared for is a loved one.

An in-home assistant can provide care to a dementia sufferer.
An in-home assistant can provide care to a dementia sufferer.

In long term hospital care settings, there might be several people who principally work as a dementia caregiver. Nurses, nursing assistants and others could fall under this title, though it is not a common title in this setting. Shifts for people in this field may vary from eight to 12 hours a day, but there are built in breaks in the system, where people have opportunities to eat lunch, regroup and go home at the end of the day while other caregivers take over. The job is still demanding, and nurses or nursing aids may deal with multiple patients who have different forms of dementia. They need to get to know each patient to determine what behavior to expect, but they also need to bear in mind that behavior can change as disease progresses.

Social workers need good empathy and listening skills when interacting with dementia patients and their caregivers.
Social workers need good empathy and listening skills when interacting with dementia patients and their caregivers.

A home dementia caregiver might have some medical training or may have received on the job training. Those who are not family do work a set schedule too, and may share responsibilities with family or with other professionals. Learning the behaviors of the person cared for is vital to help determine ways to keep him or her safe and occupied. Another important aspect of the job is learning the home to be certain that the patient doesn’t accidentally escape or harm his or herself in some manner.

A home dementia caregiver may have some medical training or may have received on-the-job training.
A home dementia caregiver may have some medical training or may have received on-the-job training.

The family dementia caregiver is usually a spouse, parent or child of the affected person, and is best served if he or she can share this job with others. Many people are forced to provide this care because there is no financial alternative, or because they do not want a loved one cared for in an impersonal setting. Even with financial difficulties there may be ways to access respite care or day care services, and these are advised, since the family caregiver may otherwise be obligated to work around the clock with few breaks.

A dementia caregiver may engage in puzzle games with clients.
A dementia caregiver may engage in puzzle games with clients.

There is only so much intensive care without breaks that family members can provide before they become exhausted, angry, upset, and potentially abusive to loved ones. This is why some breaks are highly recommended. They may help family members be better caretakers, ultimately.

Taking care of someone with dementia is unpredictable work, since most people will progress in the disease. For anyone considering this role, understanding dementia is extremely important, so people can predict potential actions and notice signs of changes. Even with this disorder, many people are able to enjoy actions in the present, and finding out what is enjoyed is useful. Giving comfort or amusement to someone with this disorder may be one of the greatest rewards of being a dementia caregiver.

Some patients with dementia reside at an assisted living center where they can be fed and monitored round the clock.
Some patients with dementia reside at an assisted living center where they can be fed and monitored round the clock.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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