What kind of care do people with dementia need? Dementia can cause a range of changes in mood, including frustration as abilities decline, confusion as memory deteriorates, and other knock-on effects as such as changes in diet and interests. Read on to discover some of the key things to take into account when caring for people with dementia.
Helping with Day to Day Tasks
When a person develops dementia, it can make a big change to how they go about their day to day tasks. They’re likely to notice they’re forgetting things, for example where the teacups or plates are kept in the kitchen, people’s names, or even where the bathroom is. Other effects include decreased coordination, which can make it much harder to perform daily tasks like preparing food, washing or getting ready for bed.
How Can You Help?
As people living with dementia see how their skills are deteriorating, are unable to express themselves or forgetting things they’re sure they used to know, they can become frustrated, helpless or less self-confident. It’s important that you help them tackle these feelings of a lack of self-worth by offering them support in a sensitive manner, without criticising their efforts. This helps your loved one feel that they’re still useful and can still do the things that used to come naturally to them.
You can also help them with their memory by putting memory aids around the house. This might include putting a picture on each kitchen cupboard door of what’s inside, or photos of what’s inside each room in the house, making it easier to find what they’re looking for.
Another way to keep them engaged is to let them take part in everyday tasks, which helps your loved one feel useful. This might include involving them in preparing meals, help with the shopping, hovering or laying the table.
Food and Nutrition
It’s important that your loved one continues to eat healthily, despite their illness. A good diet is essential to boost the immune system, especially for those with dementia, as illness can cause added confusion.
Mealtimes can become more difficult in a number of ways due to the effects of dementia. Commonly, people with dementia can forget what foods they like, refuse to eat, stop recognising familiar foods, or ask for unusual food combinations.
Not all this behaviour is down to confusion, though. Dental problems can cause irritation in the mouth, leading to your loved one resisting eating, so it’s a good idea to speak to your dentist or GP if you have concerns about their oral health.
How Can You Help?
When helping your loved one to eat, it’s important that they’re involved as much as possible. Let them help you prepare food, giving them some continuity with how they used to live their life. Let them choose what they want to eat based on sight, as this can add a visual prompt to remind them about their favourite foods.
Try to keep mealtimes as calm and stress-free as possible too. For example, your loved one’s eating habits may change over time, such as wanting to eat at different times of day. Try to accommodate this, ensuring you have plenty of time for meals allowing you to deal with any problems that may arise. Above all, remember to stay calm, as this can ensure your loved one doesn’t feel overly anxious.
Don’t Neglect Your Own Wellbeing
It’s only natural to put your loved one first, but it’s also important you also pay attention to your own wellbeing. It can be very stressful and difficult to stay positive when caring for people with dementia, especially for a prolonged period of time. As a carer, it’s important to consider your own physical and mental wellbeing, and a great way of doing this is ensuring you’re able to take a break from caring.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which causes significant distress for the individual, their family members, and friends. If left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be persistent and disabling. However, effective treatments are available. When delivered in a timely, coordinated, and sustained manner, treatment can help affected individuals to engage in school or work, achieve independence, and enjoy personal relationships.
Onset and Symptoms
Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed in the late teen years to the early thirties and tends to emerge earlier in males (late adolescence – early twenties) than females (early twenties – early thirties). A diagnosis of schizophrenia often follows the first episode of psychosis, when individuals first display symptoms of schizophrenia. Gradual changes in thinking, mood, and social functioning often begin before the first episode of psychosis, usually starting in mid-adolescence. Schizophrenia can occur in younger children, but it is rare for it to occur before late adolescence.
The symptoms of schizophrenia generally fall into the following three categories:
Psychotic symptoms include altered perceptions (e.g., changes in vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste), abnormal thinking, and odd behaviors. People with psychotic symptoms may lose a shared sense of reality and experience themselves and the world in a distorted way. Specifically, individuals typically experience:
Hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
Delusions, which are firmly held beliefs not supported by objective facts (e.g., paranoia – irrational fears that others are “out to get you” or believing that the television, radio, or internet are broadcasting special messages that require some response)
Thought disorder, which includes unusual thinking or disorganized speech
Negative symptoms include loss of motivation, disinterest or lack of enjoyment in daily activities, social withdrawal, difficulty showing emotions, and difficulty functioning normally. Specifically, individuals typically have:
Reduced motivation and difficulty planning, beginning, and sustaining activities
Diminished feelings of pleasure in everyday life
“Flat affect,” or reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone
Cognitive symptoms include problems in attention, concentration, and memory. For some individuals, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more prominent and interfere with activities like following conversations, learning new things, or remembering appointments. Specifically, individuals typically experience:
Difficulty processing information to make decisions
Problems using information immediately after learning it
Trouble focusing or paying attention
Several factors contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia.
Genetics: Schizophrenia sometimes runs in families. However, it is important to know that just because someone in a family has schizophrenia, it does not mean that other members of the family will have it as well. Genetic studies strongly suggest that many different genes increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, but that no single gene causes the disorder by itself. It is not yet possible to use genetic information to predict who will develop schizophrenia.
Environment: Scientists think that interactions between genetic risk and aspects of an individual’s environment may play a role in the development of schizophrenia. Environmental factors that may be involved include living in poverty, stressful surroundings, and exposure to viruses or nutritional problems before birth.
Brain structure and function: Scientists think that differences in brain structure, function, and interactions among chemical messengers (called neurotransmitters) may contribute to the development of schizophrenia. For example, differences in the volumes of specific components of the brain, in the way regions of the brain are connected and work together, and in neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, are found in people with schizophrenia. Differences in brain connections and brain circuits seen in people with schizophrenia may begin developing before birth. Changes to the brain that occur during puberty may trigger psychotic episodes in people who are vulnerable due to genetics, environmental exposures, or the types of brain differences mentioned above.
Treatments and Therapies
The causes of schizophrenia are complex and are not fully understood, so current treatments focus on managing symptoms and solving problems related to day to day functioning. Treatments include:
Antipsychotic medications can help reduce the intensity and frequency of psychotic symptoms. They are usually taken daily in pill or liquid forms. Some antipsychotic medications are given as injections once or twice a month, which some individuals find to be more convenient than daily oral doses. Patients whose symptoms do not improve with standard antipsychotic medication typically receive clozapine. People treated with clozapine must undergo routine blood testing to detect a potentially dangerous side effect that occurs in 1-2% of patients.
Many people taking antipsychotic medications have side effects such as weight gain, dry mouth, restlessness, and drowsiness when they start taking these medications. Some of these side effects subside over time, but others may persist, which may cause some people to consider stopping their antipsychotic medication. Suddenly stopping medication can be dangerous and it can make schizophrenia symptoms worse. People should not stop taking antipsychotic medication without talking to a health care provider first.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral skills training, supported employment, and cognitive remediation interventions may help address the negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. A combination of these therapies and antipsychotic medication is common. Psychosocial treatments can be helpful for teaching and improving coping skills to address the everyday challenges of schizophrenia. They can help people pursue their life goals, such as attending school, working, or forming relationships. Individuals who participate in regular psychosocial treatment are less likely to relapse or be hospitalized. For more information on psychosocial treatments, see the Psychotherapies webpage on the NIMH website.
Family Education and Support
Educational programs for family members, significant others, and friends offer instruction about schizophrenia symptoms and treatments, and strategies for assisting the person with the illness. Increasing key supporters’ understanding of psychotic symptoms, treatment options, and the course of recovery can lessen their distress, bolster coping and empowerment, and strengthen their capacity to offer effective assistance. Family-based services may be provided on an individual basis or through multi-family workshops and support groups. For more information about family-based services in your area, you can visit the family education and support groups page on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website.
Coordinated Specialty Care
Coordinated specialty care (CSC) is a general term used to describe recovery-oriented treatment programs for people with first episode psychosis, an early stage of schizophrenia. A team of health professionals and specialists deliver CSC, which includes psychotherapy, medication management, case management, employment and education support, and family education and support. The person with early psychosis and the team work together to make treatment decisions, involving family members as much as possible. Compared to typical care for early psychosis, CSC is more effective at reducing symptoms, improving quality of life, and increasing involvement in work or school. Check here for more information about CSC programs.
Assertive Community Treatment
Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is designed especially for individuals with schizophrenia who are at risk for repeated hospitalizations or homelessness. The key elements of ACT include a multidisciplinary team, including a medication prescriber, a shared caseload among team members, direct service provision by team members, a high frequency of patient contact, low patient to staff ratios, and outreach to patients in the community. ACT reduces hospitalizations and homelessness among individuals with schizophrenia. Check here for more information about ACT programs.
How can I help someone I know with schizophrenia?
Caring for and supporting a loved one with schizophrenia can be very challenging. It can be difficult to know how to respond to someone who is experiencing psychosis.
Here are some things you can do to help your loved one:
Help them get treatment and encourage them to stay in treatment
Remember that their beliefs or hallucinations seem very real to them
Tell them that you acknowledge that everyone has the right to see things their way
Be respectful, supportive, and kind without tolerating dangerous or inappropriate behavior
Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions. The goal of clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe. Although individuals may benefit directly from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge to help others in the future.
Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct many studies with patients and healthy volunteers. We have new and better treatment options today because of what clinical trials uncovered years ago. Be part of tomorrow’s medical breakthroughs. Talk to your doctor about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you.