Different patients may be dealing with different forms of dementia. This can pose many different challenges for you when working with dementia patients. 

In this post, we’ll explain four common forms of dementia and some tips and strategies on how you can best understand and care for people who live with dementia.

Four Types of Dementia

When working with dementia patients, it is likely they’ll have experiencing one of the following forms of dementia:

  1. Fronto-temporal Dementia
  2. Alzheimer’s Disease
  3. Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  4. Vascular Dementia

Let’s take a quick look into each.

Fronto-temporal Dementia

This is a a rare form of dementia and is typically known to be more common in people under the age of 65, particularly in men.

Fronto-temporal dementia covers a wide range of conditions, including Pick’s disease, frontal lobe degeneration and dementia associated with motor neurone disease.

What characterises this type of dementia is that it is caused by damage to the frontal lobe and/or the temporal parts of the brain.  These are responsible for behaviour, emotional responses, and  language skills.

Alzheimer’s Disease

This is the most common form of dementia in the UK.  During the course of the disease, plaques and tangles develop in the structure of the brain, leading to the death of brain cells.

People with Alzheimer’s often experience mood swings, feel angry or sad; as well as scared and frustrated with their increasing memory loss.

Patients with Alzheimer’s may also become more withdrawn, losing self-confidence and have problems with communication.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Lewy bodies are tiny spherical protein deposits found in nerve cells.  Their presence in the brain disrupts the brains normal functioning, interrupting the action of important chemical messages – including acetylcholine and dopamine.

Patients with Dementia with Lewy Bodies typically experience problems with attention and alertness. They may also have spatial disorientation and experience difficulty with ‘executive function’, which includes difficulty in planning ahead and co-ordinating mental activities.

Vascular Dementia

This is the second most common form of dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease.

In order to be healthy and function properly, our brain cells need a good supply of blood.  The blood is delivered through a network of blood vessels called the vascular system.

Should the vascular system within the brain become damaged and blood cannot reach the blood cells, they will eventually die, leading to the onset of vascular dementia.

Several conditions are thought to cause damage to the vascular system within the brain.  These include:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Heart problems
  3. High cholesterol
  4. Diabetes

Patients with Vascular Dementia display many symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.  However, they also show other significant symptoms such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Wandering about and getting lost
  • Physical or verbal aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Incontinence

There are other rare forms of dementia related diseases.  For a more in-depth exploration and understanding, we recommending taking our accredited online course:  Dementia: An Understanding.

Working With Dementia Patients – Providing Care

When a patient with dementia finds that their mental capacity and abilities are declining, they often feel vulnerable and are in need of reassurances and support.

The people closest to them, including you, carers, friends and family, need to do everything you can to help them retain their sense of identity and feelings of self-worth.

Two Key Aspects of Care for Dementia Patients

Caring and supporting a dementia patient doesn’t just mean fulfilling their needs and demands.  More importantly, it includes building relationships that provide emotional and spiritual support.

The two key aspects of care then are:

  1. Supporting the physical and social need
  2. Supporting the emotional and spiritual need

Forming strong relationships with dementia patients is critical as it provides them with self-worth and value.  

We’ll primarily focus on the emotional and spiritual needs here but we’ll briefly highlight the main areas of physical and social needs to be aware of below.

Supporting Physical and Social Needs of Dementia Patients

Fulfilling the needs of patients 100% of the time is a difficult, if not, improbable task.  However, by focusing on the following tasks, you should be able to fulfill them 80% – 90% of the way.

  • Washing and bathing
  • Dressing
  • Pressure area care
  • Coping with continence needs
  • Engaging in meaningful activities
  • Meals and diet
  • Redefining sexual needs and intimacy.

Supporting Emotional and Spiritual Needs of Dementia Patients

Building relationships with dementia patients is important part of care.  You should work with them with the aim of understanding their thoughts and feelings.

Here are a few factors to consider when working with patients with dementia.

Whether their independence is maintained – people with dementia need to continue carrying out as many of their precious activities as independently as possible, in order to retain their skills.

If you do need to offer help, try to do things with, rather than for, them.  This will help them feel more involved.

Always try to focus on what they can do rather than what they cannot.  Remember that they may have a short attention span and may find it hard to remember or concentrate on things.

Whether they feel safe – feeling safe is essential for our sense of well-being.  However, for a person with dementia, the world may feel like an unsafe place much of the time.

Imagine how frightening it must be to experience the world in this way.

Whether sufficient privacy is provided – try to make sure the patient’s right to privacy is respected.  

Suggest to other people they should always knock on the person’s door and wait for an answer before entering.

If the person needs help with intimate personal activities, such as personal hygiene or using the toilet, do this sensitively and ensure the door is kept closed if other people are around.

Whether they’re valued and respected – be kind and reassuring to them without talking down to them.  Never talk over their heads as if they are not there, particularly if you’re talking about them. Involve them in the conversation.

Avoid scolding or criticising them.  This may make them feel small and inadequate.  Look for the meaning behind their words, even if they don’t seem to make sense.

Whatever the detail of what they are saying, the person is usually trying to communicate how they feel.

Wrapping It Up

Working with dementia patients can be challenging but also very rewarding.  You play a vital role in making their lives feel like a manageable place to be.

By employing some of these tips into your practice of care, you’ll ensure your patients receive a high standard of care and improve their sense of wellbeing.

To learn more about dementia, we recommend purchasing our Dementia Bundle Package, especially if working with dementia patients is new territory for you.

Alternatively, you can purchase our accredited online Dementia Awareness training as well as our dementia training on challenging behaviour.

Our courses are fully accredited and provide you with certification upon completion.