When you are living with dementia quality of life is a major, though often difficult to achieve, goal.
That’s because it isn’t just about living in nice surroundings, eating tasty meals, and participating in stimulating activities. It’s about being in control — or thinking you are. For those living with early- and mid-stage dementia, being in control means living as functionally and independently as possible.
That means ensuring that those living with dementia are in the best physical, mental and emotional health possible. And that the person with dementia’s health care providers — their physician, dentist, optometrist, physical therapist, maybe even a psychologist — are providing person-centered, not dementia-focused, care. And that they are also communicating with each other and family and/or paid caregivers on a regular basis.
It also means that those caring for the person with dementia know how to locate and, where appropriate, use information (i.e. books, websites, etc.), function-enhancing resources (i.e. bathroom grab bars, large-key phones, etc.), and support services (i.e. adult day programs, in-home care, etc.) that are available locally to foster and/or maintain function and independence — now and, as cognitive decline worsens, in the future.
Maintaining quality of life also means recognizing the social, emotional and behavioral changes — withdrawal, apathy, sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, paranoia, etc. — that often come with dementia. Since these “changes” diminish quality of life it’s important to identify them as soon as possible so proven techniques, strategies and interventions — redirecting, distracting, simplifying tasks, etc. — can be used to minimize their impact on quality of life.
The earlier these interventions become a routine part of caregiving the better. Not only does routinizing them promote the structure and normalcy those living with dementia need to support function and independence, it also creates an environment that maximizes quality of life for both the person with dementia and the person caring for them.
Despite the important role routinization plays in promoting quality of life, dementia is an evolving and disabling condition, and those living with it inhabit a world where modifying, revising, and living day-to-day are the norm.