Annually, providers struggle with knowing how to best communicate with upmost sensitivity and compassion with patients who have dementia, especially those who suffer from dementia in acute settings.
Compassionate Care: Guidelines for Communicating with Patients with Dementia, Acute Settings
Annually, providers struggle with knowing how to best communicate with upmost sensitivity and compassion with patients who have dementia, especially those who suffer from dementia in acute settings.In order to better understand how to communicate with patients with dementia, we must first consider the unique limitations presented by patients with dementia.To define dementia, it is important to note that dementia is not a specific disease. Rather it is a broad term that defines a wide range of symptoms, related to a general decline in mental ability. (What is Dementia via www.alz.org)Alzheimers is, of course, closely related to dementia though they are not specifically the same condition. Throughout this essay, we will be referring to dementia as a general umbrella term to mean patients who do experience the associated steep mental decline, predominately in the acute stages where mindful and compassionate care is of upmost importance, as with any other serious chronic illness in the latter stages of its progression. (Rehling 2008 via EBSCO)Dementia is a chronic disease that requires medical and social services to provide high-quality care and prevent complications. As a result of time constraints in practice, lack of systems-based approaches, and poor integration of community-based organizations (CBOs), the quality of care for dementia is poorer than that for other diseases that affect older persons. (Reuben et al, 2013 via EBSCO)Acute setting dementia, of course, is what we are mainly concerned with here. Patients who experience acute setting dementia experience a drastic decline in mobility, mental function, and so on. While researcher Irene van Hunen Bos conflates acute setting dementia and Alzheimers disease, she notes that the two conditions are virtually identical in many ways: In the late phase [of acute setting dementia and Alzheimers disease] the person is completely dependent for all aspects of their care and will eventually become unable to control previously voluntary functions. AD is terminal and can have a span of three to twenty years, with the average being eight years. (2011 via EBSCO)Care is to be taken in order to know how to effectively ensure that patients are able to receive care for other comorbid conditions and can express their needs with as much dignity as possible. But considering the extent of the patients cognitive and/or mental impairment, it has never been simple for providers to accurately communicate. A high level of competence is required in other to better assess potential communication related hurdles and better understand what patients need. (de Vries, 2013, via EBSCOhost)The stress of attempting to communicate and interact with patients with dementia is not an issue that specifically affects medical providers, whether physicians or nurses. Caregivers, especially relatives and others who remain a close relationship with the patient, experience significant frustrations with attempting to communicate with dementia patients, resulting in, as further studies have revealed, strained relationships and even heightened instances of elder abuse. (Small et al, 2003, via EBSCOhost)It is distressing for both caregivers in a hospital settings and for loved ones to effectively communicate with a patient who, often times, cannot comprehend the state of their condition or their own mental state. Stress runs rampant amongst personal caregivers (Siemens and Hazelton via Canadian Family Physician and EBSCOhost) and the medical personnel who care for patients with dementia on a daily basis. (Doyle, 2014, via OnDemand services)Clearly, finding ways to more effectively communicate with patients with dementia in acute settings will have innumerable benefits for both caregivers and the patients with dementia who struggle with making their needs known.The crux of the issue is, of course, to determine how to communicate with patients with dementia and I hope to provide a more in-depth look at the mechanics that drive the condition and what patients with dementia have positively responded to in the past according to previous studies.A review of literature was undertaken through various databases and sources, not limited to the EBSCO host database and the Royal College of Nursing. I
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