Caring for Dementia Patients
I’ve been working on a geriatric floor this semester, and although it provides diverse all-purpose care, many of my patients have had one common element -- dementia.
Dementia is never what actually brings my patients into the hospital. Instead, the admitting complaint is usually something like chest pain, cancer complications, or cellulitis. However, dementia usually becomes the key issue I end up addressing as a student nurse.
Oddly, I was thinking about making dementia the focus of this week’s blog post when I discovered this article on the ADVANCE site earlier this week. It’s a really nice reflection by recent graduate Raysha Monel in which she discusses how her experience with dementia patients has inspired her to pursue a career as a geriatric nurse practitioner (I suggest checking it out).
Like Raysha, I have enjoyed my time taking care of dementia patients. Yes, it can be sad seeing a man struggle to remember his wife’s name or stare blankly at a ringing phone, unsure of how to answer it or what it even does. And it can be even worse seeing the reactions of family members – the devastation on the faces of some, the broken down and frustrated apathy in the actions of others.
Nevertheless, I believe caring for dementia patients has been quite rewarding. Obviously, they can get frustrated, confused and/or depressed due to feelings of isolation, but I’ve found it really makes a difference if you take the time to comfort them with some nonjudgmental care, a ready smile, and an attentive ear.
I’m not sure I ultimately want to end up in geriatric nursing myself, but I definitely see the appeal of it. Although they may not be cognizant of it 100 percent of the time, dementia patients still have dignity, and working to help them uphold it is a truly worthwhile endeavor.