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Dementia and good treatment

The elderly that are suffering from dementia represent a vulnerable group that can easily be involuntarily mistreated.  Adopting a good treatment approach to caring for these dependent elderly stems from respect for their dignity and allows an improvement in their well-being, all the while avoiding situations of mistreatment.  What are the best practices to adopt when taking care of an elderly person whose cognitive faculties have degraded and whose behaviour is often a serious challenge for the carer, both family- and professional-based? 

Dementia and good treatment
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> The difficulties helping a person suffering from dementia

Taking care of an elderly person suffering from degenerative dementia (Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, Lewy body dementia, etc.)  is a true challenge for a carer, whether undertaken by someone taking care of a parent in the home or by a professional caregiver in an establishment for the elderly.

Individuals affected by dementia show symptoms such as loss of memory, often times repeating themselves and losing objects, and they could show a lack of respect or act in a child-like fashion towards their carer. Behavioural problems (irritated, aggressive, decreased mobility, hallucinations, etc.) can bring on a sense of fear, dismay or discomfort for a carer and risks bringing on a loss of the human experience for the individual.

Faced with these difficulties, poorly adapted attitudes and abuse can be brought on unconsciously: inattention, failure to provide needs, lack of communication, etc. Yet the attitudes and manners of people taking care of the elderly suffering from degenerative dementia have an important impact on their wellbeing. This is why today we place importance on the development of good treatment.

> What is good treatment?

According to the UN, good treatment is the opposite of mistreatment. It should lead to a way of being, of acting that shows care for others, meeting their needs, and respecting their choices. It is a philosophy that should apply to the care of the elderly suffering from dementia, promoting the respect for their dignity and favouring their well-being, all in spite of difficulties the illness can bring on.

It also means for the carer the necessity of communicating with the elderly person, adapting communication methods and techniques to their pathology. Professionals who take care of elderly persons suffering from dementia can be trained to decode their speech and behaviour, in order to better meet their needs. They can also learn how to deal with behavioural problems of people with alzheimer's disease (anger, extreme reactions, fear, aggression...), or how to act in case of rapid change in mood or how to deal with repetitive questions from patients.

Other types of similar training is available to family carers by different associations helping the elderly, such as the UK Alzheimer's Society, who offer different training sessions for a small fee for those who take care of individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

> How to offer good treatment?

Good treatment in the home or establishment consists of privileging respectful attitudes towards dignity and the wishes of the elderly person suffering from dementia:

Maintain as much as possible their physical and mental autonomy by working with them rather than for them;

Place value on what the dependent person can still do, and encourage them to do it;

Respect their speed and daily activities so that can preserve their points of reference;

Explain technical gestures (going to the toilet, changing them…): speech must always accompany the act;

Show empathy and stay attuned to their needs;

Take into account their psychological as well as physical state;

Promote a fun diet: take into account their tastes, help them eat at their own pace;

Deliver adapted care: respect their drug prescriptions;

Respect the home/bedroom setup when cleaning;

Use respectful communications that are adapted to their needs: use simple words, calmly repeat yourself if necessary, physically place yourself at the same height as the person;

Use a warm and respectful tone, without treating them as a child or hurting them;

Respect their silence, their opinions, their religious beliefs;

Allow them to continue activities by responding to their social needs, their links with close friends and family;

Accompany them in their movements.

Questions and answers

What can care homes to do facilitate the lives of elderly people suffering from dementia? Show

Adopting a good treatment approach is also implementing the tools to preserve the cognitive and physical capacities of residents with dementia. Today, most establishments have put in place specific activities, either therapeutic or not, targeting the stimulation of the resident’s faculties: memory or remembering workshops, cooking or gardening workshops, Snoezelen spaces, etc.

Specialised professionals and also be brought in to take care of residents affected by dementia to ease their care: physiotherapists, ergo-therapists, psychomotor therapist…

What are the rights of a person with dementia?Show

The Mental Capacity Act of 2005 allows individuals with dementia to choose a person to manage, on their behalf their financial, property, health and welfare affairs in case of incapacity.  The Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) came into effect in 2007 provides the tool to achieve this.

How are the rights of a person with dementia protected?Show

A concerned family member or friend has several options to ensure that the elderly person suffering from dementia is receiving the proper care.

• Inform staff of the likes and dislikes of the patient;
• Provide objects that can comfort the person;
• Stay involved in decision making;
• Communicate with staff and managers if the person is in a home;
• All homes have a complaints procedure – use it;
• Local government ombudsmen can investigate problems, whether about councils or care providers, and may be able to come up with solutions;
• Talk to social services if you believe that there are abuses taking place;
• Contact your local branch of the UK Alzheimer's Society.


Human experienceShow

Is a method of care developed by Yves Gineste and Yvette Marescotti founded on the respect for the human experience and the dignity of the person.

Psychomotor therapistShow

Is a paramedical professional who assures the re-education of individuals suffering disorders stemming from psychological, mental or neurological problems.


Dementia is a neuro-degeneration, which means a pathology progressively changing the cognitive functions of the affected person: loss of memory, degradation in reasoning and behaviour leading to the inability to complete daily activities.  There are several forms of dementia: Alzheimer's disease and associated disorders, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia and frontal temporal lobe dementia. 

Good treatmentShow

Is a way of being, of acting that shows care for others, meeting their needs, and respecting their choices.

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