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Dementia

How Home Visits Benefit Dementia Patients

No matter what stage of the dementia journey someone is living in, it’s best that a health care practitioner visits them in their home environment rather than only at a clinic or outside office. This is most important if the person with dementia is having challenges, such as wandering, loss of appetite or agitation. The environment in which they live may be set up in a way that makes sense for those around them, but it could be confusing, distracting, or overwhelming for someone with dementia.

Our environment is impactful. Think about ways that you like to relax in your own home. Maybe this means sitting on a deck in the sunshine listening to birds chirping or laying in a dimly lit room on the couch listening to classical music. Imagine you are trying to create that peaceful environment, but your neighbors are having a loud party and another neighbor is having trees cut down. Would this hinder your calm mood? Probably so. 

Dementia patients have trouble with confusion, memory loss, short attention span and distraction, among others. An environment that isn’t set up to create success for the person with dementia can lead to challenges. Let’s assume that the dementia patient has what is described as a loss of appetite (assuming all medical diagnoses for this change have been ruled out). If a health care practitioner doesn’t assess the environment when attempting to address the loss of appetite, they don’t have all the information to create a strategy to improve oral intake. 

Did you know the way the dining room and dining table are set up impact oral intake for dementia patients? There is a lot to consider; including what is hanging on the walls, the noises in the room, the color of the tablecloth, placemat, plate and how food is prepared and presented. If you have those pretty plates with designs on them, replace them. For someone who has a cognitive impairment, they may not recognize the design as a print, or they may not identify that the print is a flower. It may appear as a bug instead. Would you want to touch and eat from a plate with bugs on it? 

I spoke in another blog about being a behavior detective when working with those who have dementia. This applies here too. The health care practitioner attempting to improve appetite (or other negative changes) should take a closer look in the home. This is an effective way to determine what might be causing confusion, distraction, or the feeling of being overwhelmed at mealtime. It’s also the best opportunity to provide one on one education for caregivers and create a beneficial plan for their loved one.

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