Excluding Other Conditions That Might Look Like Dementia
Family physicians need to consider and exclude conditions such as depression, thyroid disease, vitamin B12 deficiency, electrolyte disturbances, and glucose level abnormalities. With dementia care, family physicians also need to determine if there are brain problems such as tumours and vascular disease. They must also recognize and evaluate abrupt confusional states that are caused by underlying conditions such as infection, uncontrolled chronic diseases, or medication side effects.
Allow Yourself Time To Adjust
The shock of the diagnosis can be paralyzing. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself allow yourself to move through the mourning process. Try to feel all the feelings, rather than deny them, and be up-front with your family and friends about your diagnosis. Youll likely move into problem-solving mode faster.
Family Involvement In Dementia Care
Family Involvement in Dementia Care helps family members like you work together with healthcare providers in order to provide the best possible care for your loved one with dementia. Videos, family interviews, hand-outs and break-out discussions teach you how to work as partners with staff in both community and long-term care settings.
The ten-part series covers topics such as communicating with staff, negotiating on behalf of your loved one, asking difficult questions, managing medications, and more. These are designed to help you more comfortably present the needs and preferences of your loved ones by focusing on knowing and respecting THEM.
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Planning For The Future: Tips For Caregivers
Making health care decisions for someone who is no longer able to do so can be overwhelming. Thats why it is important to plan health care directives in advance. To help plan for the future, you can:
- Start discussions early with your loved one so they can be involved in the decision-making process.
- Get permission in advance to talk to the doctor or lawyer of the person youre caring for, as needed. There may be questions about care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without consent, you may not be able to get needed information.
- Consider legal and financial matters, options for in-home care, long-term care, and funeral and burial arrangements.
Learning about your loved ones disease will help you know what to expect as the dementia progresses and what you can do.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Resources For Patients And Families
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, it can seem overwhelming. The first step is to learn more about the condition so you can be prepared. Here, youll find resources to help, including:
- A newsletter you can sign up for
- Actions you can take in the early stages
- Support groups and a workshop
- Information about brain health and Alzheimers research
- Reliable websites with practical tips and information
If you or someone you know is in the early stages of Alzheimers disease or other dementia, you can steps now. The following can help you enjoy life and prepare for changes ahead.
Stay healthy: Keep healthy habits. A nutritious diet and exercise can maintain your physical health. Seeing providers regularly for medical, dental and vision care is also important for overall wellness.
Be social: Spend time with your family and friends doing activities you enjoy. Research shows that staying socially connected can delay memory loss.
Talk about dementia: Share your diagnosis with those close to you. Be honest about your feelings and the support you need.
Prepare for change: Expect Alzheimers disease to cause changes in your life over time. It can be frustrating to struggle with tasks that used to be easy.Give yourself time to do things, and get help from others when things become difficult.
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Taking Care Of The Person
- If the person takes medicine for dementia, help him or her take it exactly as prescribed. Call the doctor if you notice any problems with the medicine.
- Make a list of the person’s medicines. Review it with all of his or her doctors.
- Help the person eat a balanced diet. Serve plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables every day. If the person is not hungry at mealtimes, give snacks at midmorning and in the afternoon. Offer drinks such as Boost, Ensure, or Sustacal if the person is losing weight.
- Encourage exercise. Walking and other activities may slow the decline of mental ability. Help the person stay active mentally with reading, crossword puzzles, or other hobbies.
- Talk openly with the doctor about any behavior changes. Many people who have dementia become easily upset or agitated or feel worried. There are many things that can cause this, such as medicine side effects, confusion, and pain. It may be helpful to:
- Keep distractions to a minimum. It may also help to keep noise levels low and voices quiet.
- Develop simple daily routines for bathing, dressing, and other activities. And remind your loved one often about upcoming changes to the daily routine, such as trips or appointments.
- Ask what is upsetting him or her. Keep in mind that people who have dementia don’t always know why they are upset.
Caregiving In The Early Stages Of Alzheimers Or Dementia
In the early stages of Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia, your loved one may not need much caregiving assistance. Rather, your role initially may be to help them come to terms with their diagnosis, plan for the future, and stay as active, healthy, and engaged as possible.
Accept the diagnosis. Accepting a dementia diagnosis can be just as difficult for family members as it for the patient. Allow yourself and your loved one time to process the news, transition to the new situation, and grieve your losses. But dont let denial prevent you from seeking early intervention.
Deal with conflicting emotions. Feelings of anger, frustration, disbelief, grief, denial, and fear are common in the early stages of Alzheimers or dementiafor both the patient and you, the caregiver. Let your loved one express what theyre feeling and encourage them to continue pursuing activities that add meaning and purpose to their life. To deal with your own fears, doubts, and sadness, find others you can confide in.
Make use of available resources. There are a wealth of community and online resources to help you provide effective care on this journey. Start by finding the Alzheimers Association in your country . These organizations offer practical support, helplines, advice, and training for caregivers and their families. They can also put you in touch with local support groups.
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Facing Dementia In The Family
When you or a loved one first receives adementiadiagnosis, you may feel a range of contradictory emotions, sometimessimultaneously. Many people undergo a period of profound grief, withfeelings of shock, denial and deep sadness. The prospect of facing thissignificant life change can make you feel demoralized, embarrassed orangry. You may even want to keep the diagnosis secret from friends or otherfamily members.
On the other hand, you may feel a sense of relief. Finally, your suspicionshave been validated, and you and your loved ones can seek out more supportand therapeutic interventions.
The Challenges And Rewards Of Alzheimers Care
Caring for a person with Alzheimers disease or dementia can often seem to be a series of grief experiences as you watch your loved ones memories disappear and skills erode. The person with dementia will change and behave in different, sometimes disturbing or upsetting ways. For both caregivers and their patients, these changes can produce an emotional wallop of confusion, frustration, and sadness.
As the disease advances through the different stages, your loved ones needs increase, your caregiving and financial responsibilities become more challenging, and the fatigue, stress, and isolation can become overwhelming. At the same time, the ability of your loved one to show appreciation for all your hard work only diminishes. Caregiving can literally seem like a thankless task.
For many, though, a caregivers journey includes not only huge challenges, but also many rich, life-affirming rewards.
Caregiving is a pure expression of love. Caring for a person with Alzheimers or dementia connects you on a deeper level. If you were already close, it can bring you closer. If you werent close before, it can help you resolve differences, find forgiveness, and build new, warmer memories with your family member.
Caregiving can teach younger family members the importance of caring, compassion, and acceptance. Caregiving for someone with dementia is such a selfless act. Despite the stress, demands, and heartache, it can bring out the best in us to serve as role models for our children.
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Taking Care Of Yourself
- Ask your doctor about support groups and other resources in your area.
- Take care of your health. Be sure to eat healthy foods and get enough rest and exercise.
- Take time for yourself. Respite services provide someone to stay with the person for a short time while you get out of the house for a few hours.
- Make time for an activity that you enjoy. Read, listen to music, paint, do crafts, or play an instrument, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day.
- Spend time with family, friends, and others in your support system.
Care Of Persons With Dementia In Their Environment
The COPE program is a multicomponent evidence-based intervention that engages both care partners to support the strengths of the individual with dementia by reducing environmental stressors and enhancing caregiver skills . Treatment components include, but are not limited to: individual living with dementia deficits and capabilities, home environment, caregiver communication, caregiver-identified concerns, caregiver education about medications, pain, and reducing stress, and information about healthy activities. A translational study of the COPE intervention is currently underway.
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Middle Stage Of Alzheimers: Increased Need For Care And Support
During the middle stage of Alzheimers, individuals living with dementia begin to require more assistance with IADLs such as shopping, housekeeping, taking care of finances, food preparation, taking medication, using the telephone, and accessing on-line resources. As the disease progresses, individuals living with Alzheimers also require help with more personal activities such as bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, and grooming.
The increasing dependence of the individual for help with IADLs and PADLs often brings about higher levels of stress and burden for the caregiver. The need for supportive services and help from other family/friends becomes high during the middle stage. Discussions about changing living arrangements and possible relocation in the future may be initiated by the caregiver or other family members, or more commonly, are made reactively as a result of an unexpected emergency or crisis that occurs for either care partner .
Recognizing The Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia And Alzheimers
Because the early warning signs can be mistaken for normal age-related behaviors such as forgetfulness or misplacing items, family members and caretakers may not know how to recognize the symptoms.
Kriebel-Gasparro emphasizes that nurses who have training in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease with gerontological patients can provide quality medical care to help track and manage symptoms. Early detection of dementia and treatment of other health issues can help people maintain their independence longer and slow the progression of symptoms.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s share many of the same symptoms in the initial stages. These are among the most common warning signs.
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Coping With Changes In Behavior And Personality
As well as changes in communication during the middle stages of dementia, troubling behavior and personality changes can also occur. These behaviors include aggressiveness, wandering, hallucinations, and eating or sleeping difficulties that can be distressing to witness and make your role as caregiver even more difficult.
Often, these behavioral issues are triggered or exacerbated by your loved ones inability to deal with stress, their frustrated attempts to communicate, or their environment. By making some simple changes, you can help ease your loved ones stress and improve their well-being, along with your own caregiving experience.
Tips For Caregivers: Taking Care Of Yourself
Being a caregiver can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be overwhelming. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia takes time and effort. It can feel lonely and frustrating. You might even feel angry, which could be a sign you are trying to take on too much. It is important to find time to take care of yourself. Here are some tips that may offer some relief:
- Ask for help when you need it. This could mean asking family members and friends to help or reaching out to for additional care needs.
- Eat nutritious foods, which can help keep you healthy and active for longer.
- Join a caregiver’s support group online or in person. Meeting other caregivers will give you a chance to share stories and ideas and can help keep you from feeling isolated.
- Take breaks each day. Try making a cup of tea or calling a friend.
- Spend time with friends and keep up with hobbies.
- Get exercise as often as you can. Try doing yoga or going for a walk.
- Try practicing meditation. Research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, anxiety and depression, and insomnia.
- Consider seeking help from mental health professionals to help you cope with stress and anxiety. Talk with your doctor about finding treatment.
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Driving Safety For Individuals Living With Alzheimers Disease
One of the greatest threats to the autonomy and personhood of an individual living with Alzheimers is losing the ability to drive . Individuals living with Alzheimers often rely on the support of family and/or friends to assist in making decisions about driving safety . In turn, families seek help from professionals, but often find that professionals are also unprepared to give driving advice . Physicians report feeling that they are unprepared to offer families legal advice on driving cessation, even though they are often the first professional contact families reach out to for driving advice . To address this significant deficiency in the early-stage service system, several organizations have developed literature to provide education to families regarding driving safety and when it is time to put away the keys. The Alzheimers Association Dementia and Driving Resource Center is an online tool that provides information and suggestions about how to discuss driving safety with care partners and persons living with dementia .
Lewy Body Dementia Association
- Membership fee: Most groups are free, some may collect voluntary donations
- Structure:Online, phone, video conferencing
- Details: Offers support groups specifically for spouses and has active Facebook support groups.
- Things to consider: Support groups are not available in all states
Lewy Body Dementia is a condition involving abnormal protein deposits in the brain called Lewy bodies. These deposits affect brain chemical levels, which may result in abnormal thinking, movement, and behavior, as well as mood disorders.
Lewy Body Dementia Association offers several types of virtual groups, internet discussion forums, and more. Its offers virtual, meetings for anyone living with LBDeven those who are not yet diagnosed but are seeking information.
If you’re seeking a combined support group for people diagnosed with Lewy body dementia and their care partners, Living Together with Lewy is another Facebook group that is available. This one aims to help those who are newly diagnosed, people with early symptoms of the condition, and others who are seeking advice around a possible diagnosis.
LBDA also offers an online support group if you have a spouse with Parkinsons disease dementia or Lewy body dementia : LBD Caring Spouses.
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Communicate In A Way That Will Not Distress Patients
As dementia progresses, Kriebel-Gasparro reminds nurses not to make assumptions about a patient’s ability to communicate and comprehend. The symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affect each person differently from the early to moderate states. Patients need to be treated with kindness and support, using these communication techniques:
- Maintain eye contact and direct one-on-one interaction.
- Be patient and offer assurance when the patient makes mistakes or feels embarrassment.
- Ask clear and simple questions requiring yes or no answers to minimize confusion.
- Do not interrupt or argue.
- Engage in conversations in quiet spaces without distractions.
Safe Secure And Designed For Living
When it becomes harder to provide the level of care your loved one deserves, along with the lifestyle they desire, turn to AHAVA Memory Care Residence. As one of the few Hearthstone-Certified Memory Care Centers of Excellence, we know exactly how to care for those with Alzheimers disease or other forms of dementia. From our groundbreaking non-pharmacological approach and our comforting environment to our development of personalized programs and activities tailored to your loved ones specific needs, we care for your family as though they are our family. Our high level of care, along with our underlying foundation of love, ensures that at AHAVA, your loved one will receive the very best care and you and your family will benefit from the peace-of-mind of our never-ending guidance and support.
To talk to our experienced memory care specialists about our proven approach to memory care, call us at 412.521.8295 or visit us today.
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The project described was supported by Grant Number 1C1CMS330982 from the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or any of its agencies. This project was funded, in part, by the Archstone Foundation.