When caring for a person who is living with dementia, you may get to a point where you hear them mutter things that are so bizarre, that there is no making heads or tails of what they are talking about. But keep in mind, through all this chatter, you may come across personal information that should never be repeated to anyone.
“Patient confidentiality” is a trust and bond that should be taken extremely seriously by everyone who works in the healthcare profession. This rule should even apply to those doing the much-needed job of housekeeping. Everyone in general. Privacy is a public right and we, as a society, have an obligation to protect the memory impaired. A person with dementia could be having what seems like a normal conversation when suddenly they may become paranoid that everyone is against them and stealing from them.
Next, they may quickly demand that you go out to the back yard and start digging up coffee cans of money they buried behind the big oak tree. Chances are that money was dug up years ago. There can always be an exception to the rule. In a situation like this, his or her spouse, Power of Attorney or Legal Guardian should be informed.
But remember; it may not have to do with money, they may have stashed a firearm somewhere on their property that no-one knows about and ask you to retrieve it for them. Obviously, this information needs to be investigated immediately.
Another frequent problem when caring for those living with dementia is that he or she will get to a point where they rarely give the same answer to a question twice. So when they claim to have chest pains or some other type of aches, they should be taken seriously the first time and their physician immediately notified. Do not ignore their complaints, instead use discretion in discerning the severity.
Identity theft is another concern, just in the United States alone, an estimated 4.8 million identities were stolen in 2020.
It is part of the caregiver’s job to make sure the he or she is not being forgetful or foolish with their wallet or purse. The responsibilities of keeping them safe goes beyond just their wellbeing.
Even when a caregiver is out enjoying what little social life they may have, one must remain diligent not to spill out any personal information that could cause harm.
Today’s technology lends itself to the thievery of personal data. Sensitive emails and texts should always be deleted. There is lot to think about in how we need to keep these folks as safe as possible.
I personally know how stressful and demanding the job of being a caregiver is, and I truly hate to add more worries on top of what you already may have. But these people are depending on you and if the bond of trust becomes compromised, they may start holding back vital information such as severe symptoms they are experiencing.
A true caregiver/patient relationship must be built on honest-to-goodness trust. Stay faithful to your loved one. Loyalty is everything to them. Semper Fi.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc
Dementia Spotlight Foundation