How we learnt to introduce ourselves to our Nan

If you plan to visit any friends, loved ones or family members who have dementia, we soon learnt that starting the visit with too many questions was not sensible or helpful. Because if you do, you may simply increase their anxiety levels to a point they simply become confused. Sometimes any questions, or worse still and as we learnt far too many questions regardless of their good nature would cause an emotional outburst when speaking to my Wife’s Nan. And if I were to cast my mind back 13 years, the same applies to my own Nan. Add these questions to all the other “goings on” such as background conversations in the room and this could soon become an unfamiliar and even hostile environment to them. And just another reason why their anxiety levels are high. As their Carers, as after all the caring should always start with us, we need approach them with care and patience and not expect them to be able to deal with too many questions or decisions. We eventually learnt from experience that an easy and simple introduction was the most rewarding. Sometimes the introduction would be "Hello Nan, my name is Jo. I'm your granddaughter.". Some may find this odd, but believe me we found that the worst thing we could say is, "Hello, do you remember who I am?" As my Wife’s Nan quickly became angry with herself that she had no idea who my Wife was. Or worse still became threatened because she had no idea at all who we were. We also found that sometimes introducing ourselves by gently holding her hands and looking at her in the eyes would also be helpful to the situation. Asking her any question/s and expecting an immediate answer or answers would be a pointless exercise for obvious reasons. If you need to ask important questions then we learnt that we got our best results from slowly but surely working our way through the questions in an orderly non-rushed way. However, if you need to ask about an important medical issue, these answers for obvious reasons must come from a Doctor or Medical professional. Before you introduce yourself, always ensure you have direct visual contact with them. Never walk up behind them as this will more likely panic and frighten them. The Vital Signs: If a dementia patient becomes aggressive. I am not alone I am sure, in saying that many of us have had personal experiences when caring for an aging family member. It is highly likely that during this experience you observed a declining ability of your loved one’s or family member capacity to think, remember and reason in most, if not all situations. As this point, the likelihood is that when the mental deterioration becomes so severe in that it significantly reduces their ability to perform everyday tasks and activities. A diagnosis of dementia is perhaps made. From personal experience, as also from reading various information on websites etc, that there are many reasons a person with dementia may or will express aggression. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the main cause of behavioural symptoms associated with dementia is the progressive worsening and deterioration of their brain cells.

Other causes may include a change in a person’s physical environment or daily routine, or even excess stimulation as a result of crowds or loud noises such as traffic or music. It appears an often overlooked cause, can be that of the sufferer’s physical health. It is also common that a person with Alzheimer's/Dementia will likely at some point get a urinary tract infection or other infections. Sadly as a result of their loss of cognitive function, they are unable to articulate/express or even identify the cause of their physical discomfort and as a result of that frustration or pain, the person with dementia may hit out or become physically aggressive. Whenever aggression is displayed by someone who has Dementia, it will or can sometimes result in dire consequences for the patient and their Carers. Aggressive behaviour and a fear that a person will harm himself or others are amongst the most common reasons why carers consider placing a family member who has dementia in a nursing or care home. One of the first reactions to any episode of aggression from someone with dementia should be a visit to their GP for a complete check-up. The GP should be able to establish whether there is any form of illness and provide appropriate treatment or Specialist referral. At this point, the Medical Professional will be able to advise if there is an underlying psychiatric illness or undesirable side effects of any medication they are taking. Again, it is important to note that when a person is diagnosed with dementia, there is no absolute guarantee that aggression will follow. It is also important to highlight that if aggression does occur or manifest itself, there can be many different causes for it. However, getting the person a full medical check-up must be at the top of your to-do list when trying to establish the cause of a person’s behaviour or emotional outburst.

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