Take Proper Steps When Caring for Those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia
By: Joan Weems, RN, owner/administrator of Victory Home Health & Hospice, for Texoma SENIOR Magazine
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias contribute to five million people age 65 and older in 2010 living with these devastating conditions and probably 500,000 people under age 65. With baby boomers rapidly reaching age 65, that number will increase rapidly.
Behaviors of a dementia patient are tied to changes in the brain. The first area to change is the part of the brain that processes experiences and stores short-term memories. What makes this bad is that with five minutes of short-term memory, you can’t start a conversation and you can’t make small talk. We as caregivers must realize that is never going to happen.
Another area of the brain that is affected is the part that controls spatial orientation, so the dementia patient gets lost. Then the emotional control center gets damaged, and lastly the part that regulates the appetite gets damaged and finally shuts down. So with erosions and breakdowns of social skills, short-term memory, one’s sense of spatial orientation, emotional control, and appetite, the takeaway is to know that this will happen and understanding this makes it easier to accept these behaviors and know that the person isn’t deliberately doing these things to aggravate you.
Many caregivers complain of kicking, hitting, or biting from the dementia patient. Although there could be multiple reasons for these behaviors, the number one issue is pain, unrecognized and untreated pain. Victory uses the FLACC scale (for patients that can’t tell you they are in pain) to determine if a patient is in pain and can relay this to the physician for treatment.
For many dementia patients, wandering becomes an issue. It is good to keep their muscles strong, but we want to avoid the “gone missing” scenario. Something as simple as a black rug in front of the door can solve this problem, due to their depth perception; they think it is a deep hole and they won’t go over it.
Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause, but common signs and symptoms include:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Inability to reason
Inability to learn or remember new information
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
Challenges with planning and organizing
Decreased or poor judgment
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
See a doctor if you or a loved one experience memory problems or other dementia symptoms. Some medical conditions can cause symptoms of dementia and are treatable, so it is important that a doctor determine the underlying cause.
If you are providing care for a loved one with dementia, there are steps you can take to provide a safer and more comfortable environment:
Step 1: Reduce upsetting symptoms; Be gentle.
Step 2: Provide a safe place for wandering
Step 3: Take medications appropriately
Victory Home Health & Hospice is prepared to help you with any medical problems or healthcare questions you may have. Victory wants to provide you with valuable information that will allow you and your family to make informed decisions for your healthcare. We can help you understand your diagnosis and provide therapy (physical, speech, occupational) to get you back to your optimal level of health, or nursing staff to ensure you regain your independence as you recover from, or live with. an illness or injury.
Victory is one of the only home health/hospice agencies in Oklahoma and Texas that will care for patients that have no ability to pay, because we are dedicated to compassionate caring and we are here to help.
If you have a terminal diagnosis, the Victory Hospice team will create an individual plan for you and your family that will meet your needs. The Victory team provides medical, spiritual, physical and emotional support.
Victory Medical Equipment wants to meet your medical equipment needs. We sell a variety of oxygen therapy and respiratory products. We also have diabetic and ostomy supplies, lift chairs, scooters, electric wheelchairs, beds, walkers, uniforms and various medical supplies. Call our corporate office toll-free at 888-815-7922, and they can direct you to a location near you.