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Specialist Dementia Care

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Healthcare Assistant areas of specialism: let’s talk dementia care…

So, you’ve embarked on your exciting healthcare career and started out as a HCA. Once you’ve developed your core Healthcare Assistant skills including helping with mobility, taking care of a resident’s personal hygiene, support at meal-times and aiding toileting, amongst a variety of other duties, you can set your sights on developing particular specialisms. One specialism that can be incredibly rewarding and help you develop your healthcare skills further, is by working in specialist dementia care.

What is dementia?

There are various different types of dementia, with the five most common being Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia. They all have one thing in common; they’re progressive neurological disorders that affect the brain.

The word “dementia” sums up some of the common symptoms which include:

  • Memory loss
  • Poor concentration levels.
  • Struggling with following a conversation and getting words muddled up or not being able to find the word they want to use.
  • Confusion over what most people would consider simple things like “what time is it?”, “where am I?” etc.
  • Significant mood changes or out of character mood swings.

What is specialist dementia care?

Generally speaking, your role is very similar to a HCA. Your standard Healthcare Assistant duties remain. Your day to day will still involve things like:

  • Helping with mobility
  • Assisting with personal hygiene including washing and bathing
  • Taking residents to the toilet and helping them when needed
  • Support at meal times including feeding
  • Keeping the resident company and engaging personally with them.

It’s the added complexity of the resident’s condition that requires specialist solutions. Each person will have their own bespoke dementia care plan and a key part of your role will be to reduce their dementia symptoms, where possible, and provide a level of security and reassurance during everyday activities.

All carers need to be empathetic and supportive, however specialist dementia care requires even higher levels of communication and soft skills.

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The challenges of working with dementia patients…

One of the first things to note is that each dementia sufferer will likely be at varying stages of their condition. That means a “one size fits all” approach can’t work. The way you would work with someone in the early stages is very different to someone in the latter stages, for example.

  • Being respectful of their condition. Understanding that sometimes the resident will remember things vividly and sometimes they’ll forget what you spoke about just two minutes ago is something tricky to deal with. It’s up to you to work with them to reduce exposure to these symptoms.
  • Dealing with their frustration. Dementia symptoms can sometimes manifest themselves in frustration, confusion and sometimes even violence. It’s not uncommon for a dementia sufferer to “lash out”. When you work in specialist dementia care, it’s important you understand this and are physically able to deal with this type of incident in a safe manner.
  • Working with the family. Dementia is not only tough on the person suffering with the illness, it’s difficult for close family too. As well as helping to nurture the resident, you’ll also need to work closely with the family and help support them to better understand the illness and what they can do to make the most of their visits.

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Maximum file size: 516MB