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Posts Tagged ‘dementia’

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s: What Not to Do

alzheimer'sAlzheimer’s is about as scary as they come, but it’s important not to jump to any conclusions if you think you or a loved one might be afflicted with it. If you know you have a history of Alzheimer’s in your family, then you should absolutely be on the lookout for it, but tread carefully. Here are some things you should avoid doing when it comes to diagnosing Alzheimer’s.

Playing Doctor

As tempting as it might be to think we have all the answers with the internet just a click away, it’s important to remember that only a doctor with experience working with Alzheimer’s can give a diagnosis – generally this will be either a neurologist (who specializes in brain disorders) or a geriatric physician (who specializes in older patients). The internet can be a great source of information, but it doesn’t have all the answers and conducting a few Google searches is not the same as earning a medical degree, completing a residency, and building experience working with patients in a healthcare setting.

Jumping to Conclusions

As mentioned above, if you have a history of Alzheimer’s in your family, you should absolutely be on the lookout for it, but don’t make the mistake of thinking every lapse in memory is a sign of Alzheimer’s. Everyone experiences a certain amount of memory loss as a normal part of aging, so don’t start diagnosing your loved ones with Alzheimer’s simply because they can’t remember where they left their keys.

Considering Only Memory

While Alzheimer’s has long been linked with dementia and memory loss, it’s much more than that. In the later stages of the disease, patients begin to lose motor function and even control over their bladder and bowel movements. Their growing confusion and inability to remember things is only a part of the reason they end up needing help with daily tasks – the other big reason is that they need so much help physically performing daily tasks.

That’s why, when doctor’s conduct an exam to determine if a patient has Alzheimer’s, they look at much more than just memory function. They do a complete physical exam, including checking the patient’s pulse, temperature, and their heart and lung function. They’ll also ask about things like the patient’s diet, their alcohol consumption, whether they smoke, and other factors that could impair their cognitive function, but could also affect other aspects of their health.

Other cognitive functions also tend to be impaired in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, including the ability to solve problems, do basic math, or use or understand language in daily communication. A doctor who knows what they’re doing will test all of these things before diagnosing a patient with Alzheimer’s.

Failing to Understand the Stages

Alzheimer’s has seven stages, although most patients don’t exhibit any symptoms until the second or third stage. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand that diagnosing Alzheimer’s isn’t as simple as saying, “You have Alzheimer’s.” You need to determine what stage the patient is in before you can decide the best way to proceed, including the level of care they need, and how long it’s likely to be before they’ll need a higher level of care.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s: How to Find a Doctor Who Can Help

find a doctor for alzheimersNo matter how much you love your general practitioner, they’re probably not the best person to help you deal with your dementia or Alzheimer’s. These days, there’s a specialty for everything, and with all the research and new treatments around dementia and Alzheimer’s, it’s more important than ever for you to make sure you get a doctor who keeps up to date on all the breaking news in that particular section of the medical industry.

Your general practitioner may be a great place to start, but remember they’re just that: general, meaning they really don’t know much about your particular situation. Your GP might recommend a specialist they know, but if they don’t, you’re on your own. So where do you begin? How can you tell which doctor you should turn to in order to help you deal with your dementia or Alzheimer’s?

We’ve come up with a list of a few common types of doctors who might be able to help, along with their qualifications and how to determine which one is right for you.

Geriatric Nurse Practitioner (GNP)

A GNP is a registered nurse with a special focus on providing care to older adults. With illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s becoming increasingly common in older adults, many GNPs are well-versed in the behavioral issues that tend to coincide with dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as some of the best medications to help alleviate those symptoms. In order to become a geriatric nurse practitioner, one must complete a master’s degree in nursing and become certified by the American Nurse’s Credentialing Center.

Geropsychologist

A gerospychologist is a psychologist who specializes in the specific mental health challenges that are commonly faced by older adults, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. They are qualified to perform psychological testing and therapy that focuses on issues related to behavioral management of Alzheimer’s symptoms, as well as some of the issues that come with being a caregiver, coping, and grief and loss. The requirements for becoming a geropsychologist include getting a doctorate in psychology, followed by completion of an intensive internship, conducted under supervision, of working with older adults.

Geriatric Psychiatrist

A geriatric psychiatrist is similar to a geropsychologist, with the biggest difference being that a geriatric psychiatrist is qualified to prescribe medications to help treat some of the cognitive and behavioral symptoms that tend to come along with dementia and Alzheimer’s. They need to complete a doctorate in medicine, followed by a residency in psychiatry that places an emphasis on working with older adults.

Neurologist

A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in diseases that are related to the nervous system, including Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and Parkinson’s. They need to have completed a doctorate in medicine, followed by a residency in neurology. Any given neurologist may or may not have experience working with older adults, so ask around and make sure you see one who specifically has experience with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s before you start seeing them as their patient.

As always, we want to be your resource as you navigate the various stages with aging parents. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

Maintaining a Meaningful Relationship with Someone with Dementia

dementiaOne of the hardest things about dementia is feeling like you no longer know the person afflicted with the disease, even if you’ve known them your whole life. Not only is their memory impaired, but behavioral and personality changes are also a common symptom of the disease. So how can you maintain a meaningful relationship with them while they go through this?

  • Use Nonverbal Communication

This doesn’t mean sign language, it means universal body language and indications of what you’re trying to say. One of the many unfortunate effects of dementia is that the person suffering from it often loses some or all of their language skills, so you may have to resort to nonverbal communication in order get your meaning across to them and to understand what they’re trying to tell you.

And don’t underestimate the power of touch. Dementia can be a very isolating experience, but by simply laying your hand on theirs, you can let them know that you’re there to help support them and that they are not, in fact, alone.

  • Speak in a Quiet, Relaxing Tone

Another common symptom of dementia is heightened anxiety, which can be caused by a number of things, including increased confusion and an inability to communicate. When that happens, it’s easy to get frustrated and lose your temper, but that only makes things worse. It’s important to remain calm and speak in a low, quiet voice that promotes relaxation, rather than more anxiety.

  • Have Patience

We know this is easier said than done, but it is of the utmost importance in making sure your loved one feels safe and secure. There will be good times, but there will also be tough times, and in the tough times it’s important to remember that they’re struggling, too. What they’re experiencing is confusing and scary and it’s important for you to understand that and be as patient as you can. Together, you can work through it.

  • Find Activities They Enjoy

Doing activities together is always a great bonding experience, so try to think of activities your loved one has always enjoyed. If it’s something they can no longer do themselves (such as knitting or quilting), do it with them and find a way to make them a part of the process. Ask for their help picking out a pattern and colors, then work on the project in front of them while asking them about techniques and favorite projects they worked on.

  • Join a Dementia Support Group

It’s always a good idea to talk about these things with other people who have had similar experiences. No matter how much you will always love the person with dementia, dealing with the disease is never easy, but it can help to talk to other people who have been through the same thing. In addition to providing a sense of community and understanding, they can also give tips and tricks for dealing with dementia that you may not have thought about.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

 

Are You an Only Child Caregiver? Here’s What You Need to Know

only child caregiverBeing a caregiver to aging parents is a tough job no matter how you look at it, but being an only child makes it that much more difficult. When you’re the only one your parent(s) can call on, it makes it that much easier for you to feel stressed, overwhelmed, and to neglect your own needs. It’s a recipe for disaster for everyone involved, so we have some tips on how you can take care of yourself and maintain a sense of balance in your life as an only child caregiver.

  • Talk to Your Employer

If you’re the only one available to take care of your parents (whether because you have no siblings or because they all moved away), it can feel like the only option is to quit your job entirely in order to take care of your parents, but that’s not always the best move. In many cases, our parents need the most help when we’re in our 40s or 50s and at the height of our career, which makes taking a break from our career very damaging. Some people even end up taking money out of their own retirement account so they can cover their financial needs while they take care of their parents, but that puts their own retirement and long-term care needs at risk.

Instead, talk to your employer to see if they offer any Employee Assistance Programs to help pay for you to hire a care manager to help you make decisions about things like in-home care vs. assisted living for your parents.

There’s also the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is a federal law that requires employers to hold jobs for workers who are taking care of sick or injured family members for a defined amount of time.

Respite care is another option. This is where you arrange for a friend, neighbor, family member, or in-home caregiver to take a shift while you take a day, or even just a few hours off to go take care of yourself. Whether that means doing chores around your own house, going to see a movie, or spending time with friends, it’s important to do whatever will give you energy to face your next shift as caregiver.

  • Have a Support Network

You might not even be aware of all the resources for support you have around you. Friends, family members and neighbors are all willing to jump in and help out at a moment’s notice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it because the response just might surprise you.

  • Use Volunteers

Not enough people know about all the volunteer organizations that are available to help out. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is one such volunteer organization that provides senior companion resources and other volunteer-based services designed to help caregivers with aging family members.

  • Consider Assisted Living

Despite the stigma that still exists around assisted living, it’s often the best option for seniors who are no longer fully capable of taking care of themselves. No matter how hard you try, there may come a time where you can’t do everything yourself, and that’s when it’s time to consider the benefits of assisted living. Not only do we help care for your loved one, we also provide a community of peers for them and resources for you to help you through the process. Call now to speak to one of our representatives about whether Stillwater Senior Living is right for your loved one.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

Communicating with Someone with Dementia

dementiaIt can be one of the hardest things to see someone you love and have counted on for a long time, and yet not be able to communicate with them. It’s safe to say dementia changes people, while also leaving parts of them more intact than ever before. Just because they don’t talk or act the way you remember, doesn’t mean your loved one isn’t in there somewhere. It might take a little more work to get them to come out of their “shell,” but it’s well worth the effort.

We’ve come up with some strategies that can help you reach the person we all know is hiding in there, but first, you have to:

Set Realistic Expectations

Don’t assume your loved one will be able to talk to you the way they always have, and don’t try to force them to do so, because that will just make things worse. People with dementia often have a hard time understanding others and communicating, so cut them some slack and avoid getting frustrated when you can’t understand them. Instead, try to come up with creative ways to convey what you’re saying, and the same goes for trying to understand their communications. Their sentences may be broken or they may try to use more hand gestures to convey their meaning, so just go with it and do your best to understand. This is hard for them, too.

Talk Somewhere Quiet

Find somewhere that’s quiet and free of distractions so both of you can focus on the conversation at hand.

Talk Normally

Don’t use baby talk or speak to them in any other condescending way. Avoid getting agitated, and talk in a calm, level voice, but don’t ever talk down to them.

Use Names

People with dementia can find conversation hard to follow when there are a lot of pronouns involved, so avoid using words like “he,” “she,” and “they.” Call them by their names, and the same goes for initiating a conversation. Don’t just say, “Hi, it’s me.” Instead, say, “Hi Grandpa, it’s Suzie.” Don’t make them guess because that will lead to frustration and anxiety. Make it easy for them and the whole interaction will go much more smoothly.

Take It One Thing at a Time

Don’t jump around from topic to topic, because they’ll be less likely to be able to follow you. Pick a subject and stick to it. By the same token, if your loved one changes the subject abruptly, just go with it. Don’t try to guide them back to what you were talking about, but listen to what they have to say. That’s the track their mind is on at the moment, so you’ll get the most out of following it, rather than trying to derail it.

Use Body Language

Nonverbal cues, such as smiling and maintaining eye contact, will help put your loved one at ease, no matter what stage of the disease they’re in. They may also find it difficult to use and interpret language as the disease progresses, so hand gestures and other nonverbal cues may be the best way to get them to understand you.

Be an Active Listener

Every conversation needs to have some give and take and that’s as true when talking with someone with dementia as it is of talking with anyone else. Always pay attention to what they’re saying and let them know (gently and calmly) if you don’t understand.

Trying to have a conversation with someone who has dementia is always going to be hard and there’s just no way around that. But with these tips, hopefully you can make the process a little easier.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

 

Traveling with Loved Ones with Dementia

traveling with loved ones with dementiaSummer is typically travel season. Whether you’re flying to a far-off destination or just taking a quick road trip to a great camping ground one or two states over, it’s perfectly understandable to want to bring mom and/or dad.

But what if the loved one you want to bring has dementia? How do you navigate all the hazards of travel with the added burden of someone who may have a tendency to become anxious in unfamiliar settings – or worse, get lost?

Making the Decision

The first step is to determine whether it’s a good idea to travel with a loved one who has a degenerative disease. They may still enjoy traveling in the early stages of the disease, but as it progresses, they’ll need a higher level of supervision and will be more likely to become confused and anxious in new situations. So the first thing to determine is the level of care your loved one needs and whether they can handle the stress of travel.

One thing that can help in determining whether they’re fit to travel is deciding where to go. Generally speaking, travelling to far-off destinations with a different language and different customs can be a lot of fun when you’re young, but to those suffering from dementia, it can be confusing and anxiety inducing. If you do decide to take your loved ones on vacation this summer, make sure it’s to a destination that was familiar to them before they got sick.

Be Prepared

The #1 tip for any successful trip is to plan ahead and prepare for all possibilities. Not only should you make sure you and your loved one are equipped with the proper clothing for all kinds of weather, but you should also plan on bringing plenty of water, their favorite snacks, and all the medications they’ll need for the duration of the trip. In addition to your travel itinerary, make sure to keep a schedule of when they need to take each medication and have the proper medication on hand at the proper time. This will mean planning ahead to take it with you if you intend to do some sightseeing or go for a hike.

In addition to packing all the necessary medications, you should keep an updated list of emergency contacts and copies of important documents.

If you will be staying in a hotel, alert the staff to your needs before you arrive so they can be prepared to help you out during your stay. Keep in mind that new locations can trigger wandering in patients with dementia as they seek out the familiar, so stay alert and take advantage of programs like the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®.

Timing is Everything

Finally, make sure to travel during the time of day when your loved one is at their best. People with dementia often experience increased anxiety during certain periods of the day, usually around sunset, hence the term “Sundown Syndrome.” Know when your loved one is at their best and when they tend to be at their worst and plan accordingly. During the times of the day that tend to be tough for them, be sure to have something familiar and comforting on hand that you know will help reduce their anxiety.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

How to Handle Someone Who Has Behavioral Problems Due to Dementia

Behavioral Problems Due to DementiaDementia can be scary and confusing for everyone involved. Those with dementia often feel lost, confused, and out of control of their own lives – all of which are terrifying. That fear can sometimes prompt them to lash out violently (either verbally and/or physically) against those around them, which is both painful and frustrating for the targets of their aggression.

So what should you do in such a situation? How can you calm them down and avoid hurting them?

The first step is to educate yourself. Know the signs of dementia and some of the behaviors that might come along with it.

Aggression

This can often start with the patient insisting they want something they can’t have (such as to go “home”) or that they don’t want something they can’t avoid (such as something in the environment, something in their schedule, or even the caregiver themselves). A simple statement can sometimes turn to yelling and may escalate into violence.

As tempting as it can be to argue with them, that’s not helpful. Don’t try to force the issue and don’t restrain them if it’s not absolutely necessary. Instead, try to divert their attention to something else while speaking to them in a calm, measured voice.

Confusion

Statements like “I want to go home” are often the most painful to hear out of someone with dementia who is already home. It means they’ve forgotten where they live, and they want to return to a place where they lived during another part of their lives.

The most important thing to remember is not to argue with someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia because that is an argument you will never win. You cannot reason with someone who is suffering from dementia and trying to do so often only makes things worse.

Depending on the person, explaining the change in their situation, especially through the use of photos and tangible objects, might work, but more often than not it’s best to try to distract them. Suggest going for a walk with them or getting a snack and get them to talk about other things. If they ask things like “When are we leaving?” or “When are we going home?” try putting them off by telling them you can’t leave until traffic clears up or the whether is better. Sometimes a small lie is better than trying to explain to them what they can’t (or don’t want to) understand.

Poor Judgment

This can take a variety of forms – from trouble with finances, to hoarding, to paranoid behaviors, such as accusing a loved one of stealing from them. While some of these strange behaviors are obvious, others take more subtle forms, making them difficult to diagnose. The person with dementia may not even know they’re struggling with something, and even if they do, people are rarely willing to admit they need help.

If you suspect a loved one may be suffering from poor judgment, try to find out quietly. See if you can get a look at one of their bills to make sure they haven’t missed any payments. If that’s not possible, try to have them figure out the tip at a restaurant and see if they struggle any more than they usually do.

The most important thing is to remain encouraging and reassuring. Offer to help in small ways that minimize the other person’s embarrassment. Again, don’t ever try to argue with them, and don’t ask them outright if they’re unable to handle certain situations because that won’t end well.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.