June is both Dementia Care Professional Month and Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, so there couldn’t be a better time to stop and pay tribute to those professionals who devote themselves to care that can be very challenging. In Arlington and elsewhere around the country, activities will be held which are intended to raise people’s awareness of the work that needs to be done in researching Alzheimer’s and dementia in general. At the same time, it’s a great time to recognize those who have given so much of themselves to help patients who are struggling with these dread diseases. Senior home care professionals are frequently tasked with giving care to dementia patients, and they would be the first to tell you that it is a difficult but rewarding career path. If you’re interested in becoming a dementia care specialist, here’s what you should know.
What exactly is dementia?
Dementia is a cognitive disorder that can trigger a whole slew of neurological symptoms. For instance, with Alzheimer’s disease, there are several stages involved, and each one gets progressively worse. During stages 1 and 2, it’s difficult to actually diagnose Alzheimer’s because the symptoms displayed are very mild, and they could be associated with the normal aging process. A person might start to forget little things, or struggle to find the right word to use in a conversation.
By the time a patient reaches stage 3 and 4, symptoms are more noticeable and more definitely attributable to Alzheimer’s. Patients usually have trouble with their short-term memories, and they sometimes have great difficulty keeping things organized. When a patient reaches stage 6 or 7, they are usually totally dependent on their caretakers, and they suffer frequent bouts of anxiety and confusion. It’s very important that you understand what dementia is if you are considering it as a specialty.
There is a wide variety of training materials and courses available to you when you’re seeking a good academic background in the field. If you’re already working at a care facility, you should discuss the possibility of having your employer pay for your training, so that you can be more valuable to the company. There are also tons of online courses you can take advantage of to gain the background knowledge you need to embark on a specialty in dementia. Because it is such a huge concern in this country and around the world, a great many resources have been devoted to it, and you should research these and take advantage of them.
Jobs in dementia care
Even within the narrow field of dementia care, there are quite a few different jobs available that you might be interested in. For instance, you may become a person who is charged with visiting patients in their homes and helping them live independently for as long as they can. You could become a Registered Nurse who specializes in dementia care and have the majority of your workload filled with dementia patients. You might also want to become a caretaker who works in a homecare setting and provides care for several dementia patients at the same time.
All these can be very rewarding opportunities because while you’re providing care, you’ll also be building relationships with patients. If you’re really ambitious, you can work toward becoming a Specialist Dementia Nurse, and that will require at least two years of work experience with dementia patients while you are also working toward earning your Master’s Degree. As you learn, you’ll need to acquire the skills to manage all kinds of behavior, and how to make patient assessments. If you’re like most dementia specialists, the deeper you go, the more rewarding it will become.
If you decide to become a dementia care specialist, you will inevitably run into some situations where you’ll have to deal with some unruly behavior from your patients. During your training, you will learn some coping skills that will help to defuse such situations and to handle whatever conflict has arisen appropriately. However, all the training that you might acquire won’t be nearly as valuable as developing the right mindset for dealing with dementia patients. You have to keep in mind at all times that your patients are not acting out of any kind of malice or vindictiveness – they are simply victims of a horrible disease that has altered their behavior.
One of the most successful strategies for dealing with outbreaks of violence or aggressiveness is to try and get your patient to participate in an activity you know they love. If listening to ‘The Songs of Your Life’ on the radio calms them down, keep that in your back pocket as a solution to any type of challenging situation. Try to be compassionate at all times, and remember that you aren’t the victim in this scenario – your patient is.