Dementia Care – a Personal Care Worker’s Perspective (Article 2 – chill out)

Much is written about dementia, including the impact it has on the supporting family and friends. The reason for this is that the care of dementia suffers is left to family members with support from personal care agencies that provide staff with qualifications in both personal care and dementia care.

As Australia’s population ages there will be a corresponding increase in people in need of dementia care. Along with the ageing population, there is projected to be a corresponding decrease in the ratio of working Australians to aged people who are no longer in the workforce. This means governments will undoubtedly be looking for ways to reduce the burden of health and aged care to the taxpayer.

This means the provision of services such as personal care and respite care will tend to concentrate more on care for people at home.

For people suffering with dementia, home based care will have marked benefits not only person with dementia, but also to the supporting family member. Where the family home remains an environment that is familiar, comfortable and safe for the client, this lessons the adverse impact unfamiliar surroundings can cause – disorientation and aggressive behaviour.

This second article (with several to follow in the series) attempts to bring a personal care workers’ perspective to dementia care.  This perspective was documented as a result of consultation with groups of personal care workers. The personal care workers involved in the study were trained in dementia care, and have significant years of experience caring for people with dementia still living at home, with a great deal of experience providing respite care to dementia sufferers.

All agree that a valuable approach to dementia care is to treat each person as a unique individual, regardless of their illness.

Personal Care Workers Approach to Dementia Care – Chill Out

The personal care workers involved in the workshops shared the impact of family stress on the client. When the personal care worker arrives to provide personal care or respite care, oftentimes the family members are stressed and tensions are high. The client seems to absorb this tension and is so wound up that they find it difficult to relax, making interactions with the respite care worker difficult.

The strategy suggested is to chill out. The first thing to do is to try and relax the client by providing some form a diversion strategy – take the client for a walk in the garden, read a favourite story. It is important to have a number of strategies already worked out. This comes a little easier when the personal care worker becomes familiar with the client and their family setting.

The personal care worker, especially when providing respite care, will be able to learn over time the client’s interests, and can use these as a means of engaging in a meaningful way. This makes respite care for the family member more beneficial, as they can throw away their stress as they take a break from their caring role.

The value that agency provided personal care workers brings to the household of dementia suffers is peace of mind to family, knowing their loved one is being care for in a professional and caring way, so the carer can take some time out to chill out themselves.

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