Nurse Training and Dementia Care

Dementia and Alzheimer's NursingDementia is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in elderly people in the United States. Many nursing students who intend to become geriatric nurses will spend a lot of their time in school learning about this condition and the nuances associated with caring for patients. Because patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can experience a number of symptoms and face numerous risks, it has become one of the most important aspects of training among professional care-givers. Patients are subject to accidents and variable behaviors, making it difficult to provide care.

About Alzheimer’s

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, this disease is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s is  “a physical disease affecting the brain. During the course of the disease, protein ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ develop in the structure of the brain, leading to the death of brain cells.” (Alzheimer’s Society) Dementia, which can be a symptom of other conditions, is a collective term used to represent a set of symptoms that includes loss of memory, problems with reasoning and communication, and mood changes. For nurses, these symptoms make providing quality patient care a challenge. Patients may present unexpected changes in personality, personal accountability, and ability to care for themselves as expected. These changes can happen rapidly, so constant care and analysis of the patient’s status is often required. Individuals with dementia are subject to falls and accidents, which may lead to infections. Accidents are more likely when the patient is also being treated for other age-related conditions.

Types of Nurses for Dementia Patients

The most common type of nurse involved in dementia care are geriatric nurses. Other specialty certifications for the care of dementia and Alzheimer’s are available from nursing schools and continuing education organizations. Alternatively, home health nurses may be called upon to care for these individuals in their home or during their stay at an assisted living facility. Caring for dementia patients may include administering medications on a schedule, helping individuals throughout the day, or providing counseling and general support on a regular basis.

Nurses Role in Care for Dementia Related Disease

According to Nursing Management, an industry publication, nurses are doing much to further the case management success and improve quality care among dementia patients. “Some of the promising approaches emerging today are models and protocols for care researched and developed by nurses. An example of an innovative and all-inclusive nursing model is Nurses Improving Care for Health System Elders-known as NICHE. This national program of the John A. Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at New York University is a nursing-driven model intended to provide nurses with tools and expertise to develop excellence in practice for older patients (not just those who are dementing). The original three NICHE practice models were the Geriatric Resource Nurse Model, Acute Care of the Elderly Nursing Unit, and the Syndrome-Specific Model. An additional program designed to meet the needs of older adults is the Comprehensive Discharge Planning Model. Today NICHE is operational in part or in its entirety in approximately 256 hospital sites nationally, and the number of sites continues to rise.” (Alzheimer’s Disease: An elusive thief.)

Read more about Alzheimer’s and dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association.

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