Communication helps prevent infections in dementia patients

For those of you who care for those who have dementia already know, the condition can have consequences that go way beyond memory loss. One of the most common issues that carers must deal with is that a person with dementia, especially in the latter stages of the disease, may not be able to communicate effectively about health issues, such as any infections. When an adult cuts themselves or develops a sore, he or she is likely to know what to do to solve the problem. Often, however, a person who suffers with dementia may ignore this irritation and neglect to bring it to the attention of their Carer. In other instances, the dementia patient may want or will try to let their carer know about a problem, but may lack the communication skills necessary to adequately communicate the exact nature of their problem. This leaving both the carer and patient feeling frustrated and agitated.

Carers should try to perform thorough daily checks for cuts, scrapes, infections, swelling and any inflammation. This may take some time, but it is needed. Sometimes an infection may not be easily seen or even obvious. However, there are some warning signs that a carer can lookout for. These include: high temperature, pain or discomfort, loss of appetite, restlessness, crying or irritability, loss of balance, fatigue/apathy, diarrhea and a cloudy, dark or odour filled urine. Some people care for individuals who may already show irritable and restlessness behaviour. In such instances, it is necessary to keep things in perspective. Carers usually know what is an everyday “normal” for their patients, but sometimes even the most experienced carers may struggle to determine whether their patient is having a fretful day or an infection is responsible for their patient reactions. Whilst you may want to consult a GP if you believe your patient or loved one is suffering from an infection, you may be able to treat some simple symptoms at home. For example, ibuprofen may be used to control a high temperature or any aches or pains. But if the condition worsens, always consult the GP. Carers may need to take extra steps to help explain to the GP why they think their patient has an infection. Ensure you outline the facts as clearly as possible, including why the behaviour your patient is showing is different than normal - you as the Carer will know this. If the GP should prescribe a treatment that you think may be difficult for your patient to take, discuss any other possible alternatives (e.g. a liquid rather than a pill) that may make administering the medication easier and so more likely to be effective. Those who suffer with dementia often suffer from infections without even knowing why they have it. So keep an eye out for symptoms and seek early treatment as this can avoid undue stress and anxiety.

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