Caring for the patient with Dementia: A Nurse's Perspective
Dementia refers to a range of conditions that affects an individual’s brain, leading to the overall impairment of the individual’s functions. People with dementia may experience impaired reasoning, memory loss, difficulties with communication, as well as problems with daily living skills (Van, 2009, p. 351). Nurses in palliative care usually experience two principal challenges when caring for people with dementia, which include pain and hydration/nutrition.
Assessing and managing pain for patients with dementia differs significantly from the care offered to typical dementia patients. In the same way, nutrition poses a great practical and ethical dilemma, which is not typical of care for patients without dementia. During the advanced stages of dementia, decision relating to artificial hydration or nutrition is often required (Vadivelu, Kaye & Berger, 2013, p. 153). In a general sense, nurses face two fundamental ethical experiences in providing care for such patients. These include being touched by the susceptibility of the patient and being prompted to provide proper care for the demented patient.
Deep feelings of being professionally and personally responsible for the well-being of the patient often results from their vulnerable demented state (Koutoukidis, Stainton, Hughson & Tabbner, 2013, p. 146). Nurses see their patients as both literally and figuratively naked. Such feelings have influenced nurses to provide quality care. The stress associated with hospitalization may push demented patient beyond their capacity to cope, leading to agitation and aggressive behavior. Mitigating the distress experienced by such patients and their caregivers should be a priority.
While seeking medication to suppress or alleviate the symptoms may appear to be an easy solution, medication should not be the only tool in treatment because the risks associated with antipsychotics have now been established.
Koutoukidis, G., Stainton, K., Hughson, J., & Tabbner, A. R. (2013). Tabbner's nursing care: Theory and practice. Chatswood, AU: Churchill Livingstone.
Vadivelu, N., Kaye, A. D., & Berger, J. M. (2013). Essentials of palliative care. New York, NY: Springer.
Van, S. G. M. (2009). Communication skills for the health care professional: Concepts, practice, and evidence. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett P