Caring at home for a person with dementia is a demanding role.
Caring for a loved one with dementia poses many challenges for families and caregivers. People with dementia from conditions such as Alzheimer’s and related diseases have a progressive brain disorder that makes it more and more difficult for them to remember things, think clearly, communicate with others, or take care of themselves. In addition, dementia can cause mood swings and even change a person’s personality and behavior.
More than half of all people with dementia experience behavioural symptoms of their condition, including becoming more prone to aggression. Other behavioural symptoms may include restlessness, depression, psychosis, or loss of inhibitions. Aggressive behaviour in particular is a major source of distress for both people with dementia and their carers.
These symptoms may be a result of physical discomfort from a cold or urinary infection, for example, or they could be caused by damage to the part of the brain that regulates behaviour. Aggression may also be a reaction to a person with dementia being unable to understand the world around them.
Relieving behavioural symptoms
Behavioural symptoms of dementia can be relieved in many cases by training carers in how to deal with these symptoms, and by treatment with anti-dementia drugs.
Around 40 per cent of residents with dementia care homes are prescribed neuroleptic drugs to relieve these behavioural symptoms. These drugs are not licensed to treat dementia, and can have dangerous side-effects, including excessive sedation, dizziness and unsteadiness. Licensed anti-dementia drugs (Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl and Ebixa) have been shown to be also effective at relieving behavioural symptoms, in addition to other benefits, without dangerous side-effects.
Research also shows that when carers are trained in treating people with dementia, challenging behaviour can be reduced. However, despite 75 per cent of care home residents having dementia, only 10 per cent of staff are trained in dementia care. ( Richard BerryThe Journal of Quality Research in Dementia, Issue 2 )