The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can produce a strong fear of the unknown and many concerns for family members who are usually the caregivers.
In many ways, it can be compared to facing the dread of polio in the last century. Alzheimer’s disease is located in the hippocampus of the brain, which controls the area that is involved in memory formation, organization and storage.
In the Early stage of Alzheimer’s Dementia, lasting two to four years, abilities can be compared to the function of a youth of about 8-11 years old. While we would never treat someone like a child, knowledge of the family member’s cognitive and functional level allows communication to be simplified, expectations to be realistic and creative interventions to be used.
Think about a young adolescent and consider their judgment and responsibility levels as you begin to interact with an Alzheimer’s patient. Being aware of the stages of this disease can help you help your family member perform their daily tasks as easily and as well as possible.
In the Mid-Stage, the longest stage of Alzheimer’s Dementia, lasting two to 10 years, the patient is functioning mentally almost at or near toddler level. In this stage, there is generally about five minutes of short-term memory. The person usually can only do one thing at a time or follow one set of instructions. To achieve your objective, if there is resistance, it is possible to “erase” objections by walking away and coming back a short time later with a different approach. Using positive motivation without frustration on your part, especially with a Tootsie Roll, works.
Alzheimer’s Dementia at this stage or later may cause severe agitation when a person is bathed. Generally, toddlers are not showered and helping a senior or incapacitated person to bathe generally is done with a spray attachment of some sort. The water spray can be terrifying, even though, earlier, it may not have been their preferred way of bathing. To make bathing easier to accomplish, try singing, playing soft music or giving them a lollipop to suck on as a distraction. There are many other ways to be sure their personal hygiene needs are cared for.
End Stage symptoms, which can last one to three years, can be recognized when a person is only able to speak about six to seven words, and deteriorates until the ability to speak is gone. This person experiences the world through his/her senses, so there can be many ways to communicate with them through touch, smell, vision and hearing. Being sensitive to their basic physical and emotional needs, in light of sometimes very frustrating situations to the caregiver, takes much forethought and patience and, sometimes, additional training.
If this area is of interest to you or to someone you know who is struggling in their family with any of these stages of Alzheimer’s Dementia, you are invited to attend a free presentation of Alzheimer’s Whisperer: “There Is A Bridge,” on Oct. 27, at the Liberty Theatre at 6:30 p.m. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and concessions will be available. This documentary presentation is sponsored by the Pagosa/Durango Visiting Angels Home Care Agency.
(Material from www.Advanceweb.com and C & V Senior Care Specialists, Inc.)