Distraction: Singing & Reading
For some people, a distraction can be a good way to get the chore done. Its kind of a different communication style that helps in distressing situations. For example, if a patient and/or loved one likes singing, starting him/her singing could allow the caregiver and/or family member to ease into bathing time with a gesture.
Singing actually can help tremendously with memory loss patients and/or loved ones who can no longer talk, or have trouble finding words to form sentences, because they are usually still able to sing a song. Often, they can remember the lyrics of a song from beginning to end.
Many patients and/or loved ones can still read as well. Singing and reading can give the person great joy and hearing a loved ones voice can very comforting for family members.
Tips For Caregivers And Families Of People With Dementia
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A caregiver, sometimes referred to as a caretaker, refers to anyone who provides care for another person. Millions of people living in the United States take care of a friend or family member with Alzheimers disease or a related dementia. Sometimes caregivers live with the person or nearby, other times they live far away. For many families, caring for a person with dementia isnt just one persons job, but the role of many people who share tasks and responsibilities. No matter what kind of caregiver you are, taking care of another person can be overwhelming at times. These tips and suggestions may help with everyday care and tasks.
Whyand Howdoes Someone With Alzheimers Remember Old Memories While New Memories Fade
Navigating the journey of a loved ones memory loss to Alzheimers can be quite difficult, particularly understanding why some memories fade while older memories may be resurrected. A common question is whyand howdoes someone with Alzheimers remember old memories while new memories fade? Though the workings of the brain can still be mysterious in many ways, research has suggested a few reasons.
The best explanation is that Alzheimers affects recent memories first, debilitating retention of new information. Memories of childhood or from long ago are well encoded since the person has had longer to process and remember specific events. In contrast, when Alzheimers symptoms start to show, think of Last in, first out. It can be difficult for a person with dementia to remember something from 20 minutes ago.
More technically speaking, new experiences or memories register in the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which sends the memory to the brains storage bank. When Alzheimers develops, the hippocampus is one of the first areas to be affected. Because that area of the brain cant remember a new memory or person, the hippocampus cant assist in retrieving the memory from the storage bank. These new memories also dont have as much emotional attachment to them, as other memories stored in a different area of the brain, which suggests why its so difficult to retain a new memory.
For more information:
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Different Kinds Of Long
There are several different types of long-term memories stored in your brain. These include:
- Semantic Memory
- Semantic memories are part of the declarative memory and refer specifically to knowing the meaning of words and actions. An example of a semantic memory is understanding what the word “memory” means.
Dont Talk Down To Them
Caregivers and/or family members should never talk down to the individual with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, and this especially includes baby talk, which doesn’t work neurologically . The fact that the patient and/or loved one is having problems with language does not mean that talking to them like a four-year-old is going to help. The communication style should still be to a respected, older adult.
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Struggling To Recognise Faces
As the persons dementia progresses, they may begin to have difficulty recognising familiar faces, including their own reflection. This can make the person feel as though there are intruders in their home for example, if they see their reflection in a mirror and dont recognise themselves, or dont recognise friends who have come to visit.
People with dementia may also experience time-shifting. This is when the person believes that they are living at an earlier time in their life and that they are younger than they are now. They also expect the people around them to be younger as well. This can then lead to them mistaking younger relatives for people they know or used to know. For example, they may think that their child is their partner or that their brother or sister is their parent.
In the same way, when the person is time-shifted, they may not recognise their children. This could be because they dont believe that they are old enough to have children, especially adult children.
Not recognising familiar people can be distressing for both the person with dementia and those around them. It is important to try not to take it personally.
Even if the person doesnt seem to recognise those most familiar to them, they will still have an emotional attachment to those people and will still feel close to them. For example, they may not recognise that you are their child or partner, but they will know that you are a person who makes them feel safe or happy.
Outrageous Things People With Dementia Say And How To Respond
Dementia can cause people to say and do some pretty odd things. Family caregivers may be caught off-guard at first, but as they learn about their loved ones condition, it should become easier to adapt to these new quirks. However, people who are not providing care for someone with dementia typically arent familiar with the unusual symptoms that Alzheimers disease can cause. When elders living with cognitive decline need to interact with outsiders as they venture out to shop, attend doctors appointments, socialize and live their lives, embarrassing and sometimes inappropriate scenarios may ensue.
Handling dementia-related behavior changes while out in public is a harrowing experience at times. I can recall one instance when I was sitting with my neighbor, Joe, at the local clinic, waiting for some medical tests he required. Joe saw a man pulling an oxygen tank behind him and excitedly yelled, Look! Hes got a golf cart! While an outsider would have been confused by his exclamation, it made sense enough to me. Joe had loved playing golf as a younger man, his sight was poor and his word-finding abilities had declined over the years. He saw and announced what he knew: a golf cart. The man walking by was embarrassed. I simply smiled at him and redirected Joe, asking him to tell me his best golfing stories.
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Facts About Alzheimer Disease
Alzheimer disease is becoming more common as the general population gets older and lives longer. Alzheimer disease usually affects people older than 65. A small number of people have early-onset Alzheimer disease, which starts when they are in their 30s or 40s.
People live for an average of 8 years after their symptoms appear. But the disease can progress quickly in some people and slowly in others. Some people live as long as 20 years with the disease.
No one knows what causes Alzheimer disease. Genes, environment, lifestyle, and overall health may all play a role.
Once You Have Dementia There Is Nothing You Can Do
Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning it continues to get worse the longer one has it. However, there are steps people can take to slow the progression of dementia and to make life easier for those suffering from it. Using a Montessori approach coupled with appropriate adult Montessori activities are one way to help combat dementia and live a quality life.
Are Seniors With Dementia Capable Of Manipulation
Amanda Smith, MD, medical director of the Byrd Alzheimers Institute at the University of South Florida, estimates that one-quarter of the caregivers she interacts with have concerns similar to Bransfords. Adult children often ask Dr. Smith whether their cognitively impaired parents are being intentionally deceitful or manipulative.
Sometimes caregivers assume that their loved ones are being manipulative because they just cant believe their unusual behavior, explains Dr. Smith. But in reality, people with dementia arent able to think through the complexities required to manipulate those around them.
Eileen Poiley, MS, director of education at the Byrd Institute, notes that short-term memory is the first to go for dementia patients. However, its not uncommon for seniors to develop mixed dementia, which can affect several different areas of the brain and cause a unique combination of symptoms.
For example, with Lewy body dementia, a seniors memory can quickly fluctuate from moment to moment. Their fleeting lucidity may appear as selective memory to outsiders. On the other hand, frontotemporal dementia affects parts of the brain that control ones decision-making, behavior and personality. A senior with FTD may do or say things that are socially inappropriate because their ability to gauge right or wrong is impaired. This might explain why a loved one may lash out and make hurtful statements.
What To Do If A Loved One Is Suspicious Of Having Dementia
- Discuss with loved one. Talk about seeing a medical provider about the observed changes soon. Talk about the issue of driving and always carrying an ID.
- Medical assessment. Be with a provider that you are comfortable with. Ask about the Medicare Annual Wellness exam.
- Family Meeting. Start planning, and gather documents like the Health Care Directive, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Estate Plan.
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How Do I Deal With Memory Problems
As it gets harder to remember things, you can use a few strategies to help your memory. You may have to try a few different ones before you find what works for you. To start:
- Keep a notebook or smartphone with you to keep track of important information, phone numbers, names, ideas you have, appointments, your address, and directions to your home.
- Put sticky notes around the house with reminders for yourself.
- Label cupboards and drawers with words or pictures that describe their contents.
- Ask a friend or family member to call and remind you of important things you need to do during the day, like taking medication and going to appointments.
- Keep photos of people you see often, and label the photos with their names.
People With Dementia Dont Know What They Want Or Cant Communicate What They Want
People suffering from dementia usually do know what they want they just have trouble communicating it properly. Patience is very important when trying to determine the likes and dislikes of the person, as communication becomes so difficult that it is not as straight forward as asking them their feelings. It may be useful to take notes on the behaviour of a person with dementia to help determine the causes of distress or poor behaviour. Notes will allow you to see if there is a pattern to their behaviour.
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Should You Keep Trying To Communicate
Family members may frequently ask, How often should I visit?, or, Should I visit at all, because they dont seem to be understanding what were saying, most of the time they dont seem to recognize me, etc. Caregivers can encourage family members to visit because its important to them. Also, the person with memory loss may catch some things on some days, and if family members can make the interaction a pleasant moment, it can be rewarding for both.
Communication amongst family becomes particularly difficult when the person with dementia and/or Alzheimers doesn’t recognize family members anymore. In this situation, a spouse or children can think that it doesnt do any good to go talk to the personthat anyone could talk to him/her because they dont remember who they are. But there is a richness that happens because of family history together, something that can only come from people that have been family or friends for a long time.
The type of communication families can get out of visits can be pulled from the strength of the patient and/or loved ones long-term memories. They can still talk about the past, and for family members, to hear those things are perhaps a worthwhile gift.
Even though the patient and/or loved one can no longer communicate the way they used to, there are still other ways to enjoy time together. There is beauty and simplicity in being in the present moment.
First In Last Out: Dementias Impact On Memory
There are many different types of dementia and each affects the brain in different ways. In Alzheimers disease, the hippocampus is one of the first areas of the brain to be damaged. One study found that hippocampal atrophy associated with early AD amounts to a 15 to 30 percent reduction in volume.
The first thing that gets affected is the ability to take in new memories, explains Amanda Smith, MD, director of clinical research at the USF Health Byrd Alzheimers Center and Research Institute.
When the hippocampus isnt functioning correctly, it directly inhibits the ability to process and retain new and recent information. Since this information is never properly encoded, no memory is formed and therefore it cannot be recalled. This is why an Alzheimers patient might remember an event from 20 years ago but cant remember what they did mere minutes ago.
First in, last out is often used to describe the peculiar pattern of memory loss that AD causes. This concept is a take on an inventory valuation method used in accounting. In this application, though, it means that ones first memories like things learned in childhood and young adulthood are the last to fade. The reverse is also true more recent information is the first to be forgotten in Alzheimers patients.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia
Because dementia is a general term, its symptoms can vary widely from person to person. People with dementia have problems with:
- Reasoning, judgment, and problem solving
- Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision
Signs that may point to dementia include:
- Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
- Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
- Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend
- Forgetting old memories
- Not being able to complete tasks independently
How Is Dementia Treated
Treatment of dementia depends on the underlying cause. Neurodegenerative dementias, like Alzheimers disease, have no cure, though there are medications that can help protect the brain or manage symptoms such as anxiety or behavior changes. Research to develop more treatment options is ongoing.
Leading a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining social contacts, decreases chances of developing chronic diseases and may reduce number of people with dementia.
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What’s The Best Way To Plan The Day
- Focus on things you enjoy and are able to do safely on your own.
- Take advantage of the times of the day when you feel best. It will be easier to get things done.
- Allow yourself the time to do what you need to do. Don’t feel like you have to hurry or let other people rush you.
- If something gets too hard, take a break.
- Ask for help if you need it.
Forgetting Recent Conversations Or Events
People with dementia may find it hard to remember recent conversations and events, even in the early stages. Keep in mind that the person isnt ‘being difficult’.
Due to the damage that is causing the persons dementia, their brain may not have stored the information. This means that they cannot bring back the memory of the event or discussion because they may not have that memory.
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Tips For Home Safety For People With Dementia
As a caregiver or family member to a person with Alzheimers or related dementias, you can take steps to make the home a safer place. Removing hazards and adding safety features around the home can help give the person more freedom to move around independently and safely. Try these tips:
- If you have stairs, make sure there is at least one handrail. Put carpet or safety grip strips on stairs, or mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape so they are more visible.
- Insert safety plugs into unused electrical outlets and consider safety latches on cabinet doors.
- Clear away unused items and remove small rugs, electrical cords, and other items the person may trip over.
- Make sure all rooms and outdoor areas the person visits have good lighting.
- Remove curtains and rugs with busy patterns that may confuse the person.
- Remove or lock up cleaning and household products, such as paint thinner and matches.
How To Talk To Someone With Dementia Alzheimer’s Or Memory Loss
Communicating with a person with memory loss can be difficult, but the right strategies can bridge the gap and foster a more fulfilling relationship between you and your patient or loved one.
Those struggling to communicate with a person who has memory loss are not alone. As many as four million people in the US may have Alzheimer’s, and, as our population ages, that number is expected to increase. Anyone who is a senior caregiver is likely to be affected and will need to understand how to cope with what is happening.
Memory loss associated with aging, dementia, and Alzheimer’s typically doesnt happen overnight. Slowly, little-by-little, it sneaks up, until one day, family members realize that they can no longer communicate in the same way with the person they’ve known for years. They suddenly can’t rely on their words and their sentences dont match the situation.
Because we cannot see the diseasethe way we see a broken armits even more confusing when caregivers see how their patient and/or loved one will have good and bad days. The days when theyre alert and clear-headed make a caregiver hopeful. Then the bad days come, and family members and caregivers feel the pain of losing their patient and/or loved one all over again. This slow and normal progression of the disease makes communication a major challenge for caregivers.
This blog will share more information and advice to improve communication, including:
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