Nurses are trained to treat each disease according to a specific medical model. In a job that is full of routines and responsibility, this can easily translate into treating the disease and not the patient. This is particularly true in the case of dementia. With more and more specialized care centers focusing specifically on patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, nurses and caregivers who deal regularly with this disease are especially susceptible to applying the one-size-fits-all care plan across the board.
This practice, although unintentional, is counter-productive for patients and can potentially lead to quicker onset due to over-accommodation and lack of stimulation. On the other side of the spectrum, the application of a generic-based care plan can also result in reduced quality of care in the case that a patient’s symptoms have progressed further than their current diagnosis stage and the change remains unnoticed.
While a thorough understanding of the progression of the disease is an essential element to providing quality care, nurses must carefully navigate their roles both as medical professionals and as caregivers. As a medical professional, a nurse must focus on the clinical aspect of care. As a caregiver, a nurse’s focus should be on treating the patient’s needs as an individual instead of relying solely on the medical model blueprint for their disease. This philosophy of treating the patient first, not the disease, can greatly impact the quality of care that the nurse is able to provide their patient. It can also translate into an individualized care plan that better suits the patient’s needs and therefore ultimately promotes a better quality of life.
Family members and other caregivers can often provide critical insight into their loved one’s progression of this disease. Once a diagnosis of dementia has been made and a stage level has been assessed, it is the nurse’s responsibility to monitor their patient not only for progression of the disease but also for their individual remaining abilities.
By focusing not only on the progression of the dementia but also on the patient’s remaining abilities, a care plan can be constructed that not only addresses areas of high risk but also emphasizes the patient’s remaining abilities. This balanced approach in facilitating a care plan based upon the patient’s capabilities instead of solely on their disabilities simplifies the provider’s time management strategy and allows them to focus on creating a relationship based on support rather than dependence.
by Linda Bright
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