Alzheimer’s disease is considered one of the more challenging medical conditions out there. Not only is it a progressive condition that can end with hospice care and ultimately death, but the person who has it gradually loses their memory and functions, and in many cases, their entire personality.
Various dementias can mean residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere can experience a short or long period of confusion and often depression. After all, it’s not the situation that most people envisioned earlier in life when they thought about what life would be like when they were older.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice have many clients who are dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and similar dementias. Everyone on our staff has dealt with it in some way, from our clients to our own family members.
We also follow the research, which shows that we’re going to be seeing even more of it in the next few years.
A 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that about 5.8 million Americans have this disease.
It’s more commonly seen in people over age 60, or at least that’s when people start to recognize the signs. The risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease increases every year and doubles every five years after age 65.
One statistic from this report is the most concerning: while about 6 million people in the U.S. have it now, the number is supposed to grow to 14 million by 2060.
Research continues into how Alzheimer’s disease grows and affects the brain and then other parts of the body but there’s still a lot of missing or unknown info. Efforts are taking place to study differences in the brain or other body parts, if there’s a family history of dementia, different diets or environments, or other factors which could cause it to become noticed as it takes hold of the brain.
Experts have found ways to extend the time between different phases of Alzheimer’s disease in many people with things like an improved diet, more exercise, and more mental stimuli like games, puzzles, or other mental challenges like learning a new language or making new music. This can at least slow down the progression or deterioration which allows people to have a better quality of life.
One area that our team likes to emphasize is the dignity of all of our clients. This can take different forms depending on the individual, but we feel it’s part of our duty to be available to the client and their families.
This goes beyond dementia or Alzheimer’s disease as well: we still provide the same level of caring and support to all of our clients and their families and preserve their dignity as much as possible.
Some of these methods include:
- Though this seems like a basic required skill for home health care positions, it’s especially important to offer a kind ear to those with dementia. It makes them feel like they’re being listened to and not ignored. They may simply be sharing how they feel or their concerns, including their memories, plus speculating what’s above.
- Downplaying some of the physical functions. People with advanced dementia or other health conditions may become incontinent. They may not even be able to travel to the bathroom themselves. Some may require an in-room commode. Not being able to control going to the bathroom can be difficult, even humiliating to people, so caregivers can do things like not make comments, take any soiled clothes or bedding away, clean up quickly, or cover things up. This can include catheter bags.
- Let them do as much as they can. Dementia can make people feel helpless. They may not be able to recall details of their lives, but they may remember other tasks, such as tying their shoes. So, a caregiver can use opportunities like this to let the client do as much as they can without jumping in.
- Don’t fight or correct false information. In the past, people were told to always correct or clarify people who may not have their facts right, such as getting people mixed up. Now, a current best practice is to allow them to call you by the wrong name or believe whatever they’re saying. Correcting or clarifying them can be embarrassing and remind them of their current situation which they aren’t happy about.
- Sit when feeding. If someone is at the point where they need to be fed, it helps for the caregiver to be at the same level as them rather than being above them.
The Alzheimer’s Association can be a useful resource for patients, caregivers, loved ones, or others who want to know more.
This month there’s even more to learn. The association has declared June to be Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. It’s an opportunity for people to support each other and increase overall awareness through social media. Getting involved can be as easy as wearing purple during the month and explaining to people why you’re doing so.