Identify and develop the practical strategies for dealing with the challenging behavior and communication challenges encountered during caregiving for the elderly people living independently with dementia.
This essay will examine the caregiving skills and knowledge learned on caring for the elderly to develop effective caregiving strategies for the elderly people living alone with dementia during my placement. Additionally, the essay will further highlight how the experience I learned during my placement will assist me to identify the best and effective care giving services for my future career as a caregiver for the elderly persons living independently with diseases such as dementia. For this essay, I have decided to use Gibbs (1988) model to help me reflect on my learning process. This model involves phases of reflection under different subsections, for example, description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion, and action plan. The concepts that I will learn from the model will help me set my future career objectives, therefore, improving my skills and experience that will also assist in my future career development. Before my placement, I successfully acquired the communication and interactive skills that I learned in this module and enabled me to understand the elderly people and what kind of help they need at a given particular time. However, during my placement, I was able to put the concept I learned in class into practice by caring for the elderly people living with dementia. According to Brodaty et al. (2005), people living with dementia face various challenges because the disease affects their brain. Therefore, they cannot remember things easily. The effect leads to their problem in communicating clearly and thinking properly. As a result, most of them are incapable of taking care of themselves. Additionally, the effect can also influence their personality behavior that comes as a result of mood swings. Therefore, the caregiver must be able to understand them effectively and have effective communication and interactive skills that enable him/her to maintain the good relationship with the patients. The disease becomes more challenging when the person is living alone, and yet they cannot take care of themselves.
As Margallo et al. (2001) report, taking care of a person with dementia can be physically and emotionally challenging to the caregiver. Therefore, the more one has the information about the disease, caregiving strategies, and communication skills the more one will survive the experience. As a result, I prepared myself for the challenge ahead during my placement with the communication and interactive skills I learned in this module. During my placement, I had the opportunity to work with other professional healthcare providers in the facility to provide effective healthcare services to the elderly people living with dementia. Although, previously there I had not encountered any person living with dementia and so I had no practical experience of people living with dementia. However, when I first visited my placement area I never panicked because I could see other healthcare providing personnel doing the same, so it became challenging for the first time but after two days I was able to get into the system and actively involved in taking care of the elderly people living with dementia. During the first days of my placement, I was able to observe what other experienced caregivers were doing and getting some few tips to get along with the patients. The first encounter with a dementia patient proved to me that taking care of patients with dementia might not be easy as one may think; it is accompanied by various challenges that range from physical to emotional. It was a difficult experience for the first time because of the communication challenges encountered with the patients. Dementia patients sometimes develop difficulty with their communication abilities, and they cannot be able to communicate properly. As Haelein et al. (2009) state, finding a certain word for a person with dementia when he/she wants to speak may be a problem, and this might also be challenging to the caregiver. Additionally, as Livingston et al. (1996) report, the patient might develop difficulty in speaking fluently, ability to understand things may be reduced, and he/she might be unable to express properly his/her emotions that might further contribute to the challenges of the caregiving.
Proper communication skills might be able to help the caregiver to cope with the experience because everything depends on it. As Yaffe et al. (2002) explain, a good caregiver should have proper communication tips to enable him/her to understand the patients and the changes in their behavior during caregiving. Yaffe et al. (2002) identify some of the communication tips that the caregiver should have so as to give effectively the services to the patients. For example, one should stay calm and patient with the patients with dementia so as to be able to understand them and be able to respond to their needs appropriately. People are living with dementia as Miranda et al. (2010) report, sometimes might be difficult to understand because they do not have stable behavior. Their behaviors change frequently, and this might be a challenge to the caregiver, especially when he/she does not understand the needs and characteristics of patients living with dementia. According to Ballard et al. (2001), people living with dementia are sometimes left alone with their families because they sometimes prove to be difficult to understand. In a situation where a person does not have the training or experience of caregiving, it becomes difficult to understand them. Therefore, as Hancock et al. (1996) put it, elderly people living with dementia require more than just providing the services they need like washing, and feeding them but rather it also requires understanding and patience from the caregivers. Tamura et al. (2004), argue that people living with dementia are affected by the disease, and sometimes they might behave as if they mad or out of their senses. Additionally, the problem becomes even worse for the elderly because their brain function is also affected by the disease making them behave like a child. Therefore, as a caregiver, Yaffe et al. (2002) emphasize that one should acquire more information before engaging in the experience because it might turn out to be difficult as one might think.
Staying with the elderly people, at first proved to be challenging because we could not understand and manage communication needs of the patients. During the first encounter with a person with dementia, one might not easily understand him/her because of their changing moods that might result in a change in behavior. Therefore, as Yaffe et al. (2002) explain, the caregiver must learn to manage the communication needs of the patients. Although, it was a difficult to experience we managed to cope with the patients through the management of communication needs as explained by Miranda et al. (2004) and Yaffe et al. (2002). As Miranda et al. (2004) state, management of communication needs of people living with dementia involves using short sentences that the patients can understand easily and does not require them to strain so as to understand, try to keep away from arguments with them and ask them questions that enhance good memory. As Yaffe et al. (2002) also explain non-verbal communication skills are also important in this case. However, the caregiver should try to use positive non-verbal communication skills and try to be consistent in the conversation so as not to confuse them and enable them to follow what one is saying. Our experience was not easy because some of the victims were too old, above 76 years. Therefore, we tried to adopt the Yaffe et al. (2002) idea of being consistent in the communication and we saw that it yielded a fruit because at least we could communicate with the patients and understand what they needed. Our learning on how to effectively take care of the elderly people living independently with dementia was to interact with them and observe their behavior and how they communicate and how to interpret their needs through their behavior.
Eriksson et al. (2008) believe that people living with dementia might be difficult to understand, but the caregivers should try to understand their behaviors. Additionally, Ballard et al. (2001) explain that despite being mentally challenged, the people living with dementia are still human, and they deserve better treatment and quality life just like any other person who seeks and needs to be taken care of. This has taught me and motivated me to continue with my career of taking care of the elderly who live alone and cannot take care of themselves. To understand the behaviors of the people living with dementia, we had to spend more time with this one particular patient aged 75 years to be able to learn and interpret her behavior needs correctly. We were to observe her behavior and to be able to determine what she liked and disliked and how her behavior could reveal these needs to the caregiver. We were to determine her reactions to different situations so as to help us interpret her needs and improve the provision of care services.
Due to her age, the patient was not able to speak fluently and what she used to say required one to listen effectively. Interpreting her words was a challenge especially for someone who was not used to communicating slowly like me. For the first week of our assessment, it was not something close to easy for us to understand her needs. It was difficult to predict what she wanted because she would say something and after few minutes, she would have forgotten that she said anything. Therefore, it required us to be keen especially when she called on us for help when someone is not around her. Despite her old age, she was able to communicate at least with either her hands especially when she realized that we were not getting anything she used to say. As Gilleard (1984) says, understanding the needs of the elderly people living with dementia might be difficult; I found that it was not easy for me either. The challenge became more intense especially when predicting their eating and nutrition needs. During the first days of my placement, it was difficult for us to manage her nutrition needs because we could not identify her favorite type of foods. As Miranda et al. (2010) explain, managing eating and nutrition needs of people living with dementia requires one to monitor carefully their eating habits. Therefore, we had to observe carefully her drinking and eating habits although, it was also difficult because she could forget that she has eaten. After some time, we were able to monitor and record her eating habits that enabled us to manage her eating and nutrition needs. Monitoring her eating habits enabled us to improve our care provision because we had already learned her behavior and we could predict some of her needs at a particular time.
Tamura et al. (2004) say that people living with dementia might behave like children especially the old. Therefore, they require more attention the same way a child could be given attention and care. Tamura et al. (2004) emphasize that caregivers, family members and friends need to show these people compassionate care because they no longer reason or think normally like a healthy person. Taking care of my patient was not an easy one as Livingston et al. (1996) say that it might be accompanied by challenges associated with the fluctuating behavior development. Despite her old age, I observed that the patient had the ability to communicate through writing although, she needed support. She kept her diary with her all the times and anytim...
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