Alzheimer’s Early Detection and Finding Help

| October 13, 2014 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

 

 

By Gary Skole 

The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia can be devastating not only to the recipient but for their families as well.  It is often met with panic, denial or anger as they anticipate watching their parents or loved ones decline.

Although cognitive decline is inevitable, how you look at the disease can make a huge difference. For many, it is an opportunity to get reacquainted with their parent. An important first step is to gather all the information you can about your parent, starting from their youth all the way up to present time. The earlier you begin this process the better. Record everything you possibly can including things you may not think are important, such as family pets from their youth, old friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, nick names of friends and family and so on.  It is not uncommon for people with dementia to relive their youth as the disease progresses so the more you know about that time period the better.

You can record your parents’ life history by capturing it on video, in a notebook, or any other means you are comfortable with. Many children are shocked about how much they learn about their parents and really appreciate this exercise.

In order to start this process as early as possible, there are signs you can look for. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following are the top ten signs of early detection.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.

For more information about early signs, go to www.alzbetter.com/early-signs.

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s can be very difficult to care for, especially as the disease progresses. It is import to make sure that family members share the load when it comes to care.  On average, it takes four caregivers to care for one person with moderate to severe dementia. Caregiver stress and burnout are very common and can often lead to health problems for the caregivers.  For this reason, it is important to bring in help if there are not enough family members to supply the care necessary.

When hiring outside help, here are a few things to look for.

  1. Hire an agency so that if the caregiver does not work out, they will have back-ups.
  2. Ask the agency if they have a dementia program.  Simply having their caregivers watch a few videos or do an in-service is a start, but does not constitute a full program.  There should be a care manager who has extensive expertise and training with dementia.
  3. Caregivers should be supervised by the care manager.
  4. Ask the agency if they handle the dementia cases differently from their non-dementia cases. If they say they do, ask for details. To start with, their initial assessment should be much more detailed than the ones done for non-dementia clients.
  5. Do they have a structured plan in place for the caregivers to follow? This should be different than the care-plan used for the non-dementia clients.
  6. Do they have dementia specific activities for their caregivers to do with your loved one?
  7. Are their caregivers trained to be able to recognize if the activities they are doing are enjoyable for the patient? This is called Quality Of Life. One of the hallmarks of dementia is that people often lose the ability to communicate and instead will show their feelings through their behavior. When they are unhappy about a situation they often react with what we call problematic behaviors such as wandering or agitation. Trained caregivers using observational techniques should be able to recognize signs of pleasure or displeasure and make changes accordingly.

Planning and learning all you can about the disease can be very helpful to prepare to assist your parent through this process.  By looking for the positive things that come from the disease, it can provide opportunities find joy during a time that many people see only as negative.

About the Author Gary Skole, founder of AlzBetter 
GGS Headshot Suite Goodary Skole has been in the home health care industry for more than 25 years and currently helps home care agencies learn how to better care for people with dementia through his company AlzBetter LLC. He can be reached at 856-281-1200. To learn more about AlzBetter programs, please visit www.alzbetter.com.

Category: Brain Health

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