Sunday, July 22, 2012

What Caregivers Need to Know About Dementia

Most of us know that not all diseases are created equal.  A number of chronic diseases include dementia as one of the defining symptoms, although it impacts mental and physical functions differently.  Parkinson’s disease certainly manifests a deterioration of mental functions, but not necessarily in a steadily progressive manner. Harry may be unable to remember his wife’s name today, but next week he appears quite cogent—a pattern of in and out. Congestive heart failure shows up as mental confusion, especially after a mini-stroke, but after the brain re-stabilizes, Mom can suddenly remember where she put her list of drugs. 

The word dementia is a catch-all phrase that indicates a decline in your ability to think, remember and reason. It can be caused by a number of brain disorders, such as a stroke—afflicting 795,000 people in the United States each year—and other ailments. People with dementia may lose the ability to solve problems, experience loss of emotional control and undergo personality changes. They usually develop impairments in their ability to perform daily activities, such as dressing or eating. Many, though not all, dementias cause memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease, among the dementias, is progressive, incurable and eventually kills the patient. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 15 million family members and friends provide unpaid care to people with dementia. Hundreds and thousands of them meet regularly in support groups to exchange information and understanding not available elsewhere. Early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease are especially relevant.  Although most Alzheimer cases are not diagnosed until mid-stage, medical recommendations urge patients to begin Alzheimer drugs as early as possible to improve and stabilize thinking, language and behaviors.  These drugs treat only symptoms, though, as the disease has no cure, and will continue to advance.
 
The warning signs include:
  • Memory loss for recent or new information—for example, repeats self frequently.
  • Difficulty doing familiar, but difficult tasks—managing money, medications, driving.
  • Problems with word finding, mis-naming or misunderstanding
  • Becoming confused about time or place—getting lost while driving, missing appointments.
  • Worsening judgment—not thinking things through as before.
  • Difficulty problem-solving or reasoning.
  • Misplacing things—putting them in “odd places”—the ice cream cake into the oven, the coffee cups into the freezer.
  • Changes in mood or behavior.
  • Alterations in typical personality.
  • Loss of initiation—withdraws from the normal pattern of activities and interests.
Many abilities are affected by dementia—thoughts, words, actions, feelings. It is variable, and affects people differently, depending on which specific brain parts have been impacted. If progressive, more of the brain dies over time and key areas get hit. These typically involve the frontal lobes, our intelligence center. Why is cognitive loss considered to be so devastating in our culture?  Because our over-rational society has put cognition as the most prized part of human activity. Irrational behavior is treated as pathological—out of control, unreasonable and deviant. Without a doubt, dementia can produce extreme behavior that violates anyone’s sense of normal or appropriate.  Teepa Snow, a dementia care and training specialist extraordinaire, offers some examples of deepening levels of concern: Annoying, Risky and Dangerous behaviors.
 
Problem Behaviors
Losing important things, getting lost, unsafe task performance, repeated calls and contacts, “bad mouthing” you to others, resisting or refusing care, not following care plans, being rude, making 911 calls repeatedly, undressing in public.  These are definitely annoying for the caregiver and her family, and become wearing over time. Such behaviors also take time away from other responsibilities.  Still other behaviors are risky, and unpredictable, and could cause harm to self or others. These can include: using drugs or alcohol to “cope,” eloping or wandering, and forcing intimacy or sexuality on another.
 
Dangerous behaviors are especially problematic and put the person, care provider or loved ones at immediate risk for injury.  Paranoid or delusional thinking, threatening caregivers, striking out at others, falls and injuries, infections and pneumonias, failure to eat or drink all constitute behavior that puts self or others in jeopardy. The secret for caregivers is to have a clear understanding of what level she’s dealing with and develop a strategy, rather than simply reacting to difficult behavior.
 
Next: Peter and Susan, A Typical Couple, Confront Alzheimer's
 
 

2 comments:

  1. Very informing post Nanette. It is so true that millions of family members and friends provide unpaid care each year. No one plans to have their loved one all of a sudden become diagnosed with Dementia but yet they have to handle the situation immediately. I am in the senior medical alarm industry and we hear cases such as these all the time. Caregivers are all of a sudden faced with such daunting tasks and they have no prior experience with Dementia. Resources, caregiver forums, and websites such as yours help caregivers every day. Dementia.org is a great resource for caregivers. Thank you for this very informative post. I will definitely share this with all my Caregiver Twitter Followers!

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  2. Rose Weel is my name, I live in USA. I want to say to the whole world how my husband was cured of his Alzheimer’s disease. Brothers and Sisters, my husband is 78 years old. He is a retired US Army. He fought so many wars, and had encounter with so many dangerous diseases. Before he embarked on his last peace mission to Iraq they were administered injections that will enable them carry out their duties effectively. So they went to the battle field where he lost so many of his colleagues and also he was shot on his throat but bullets don’t have much effect on him. So after the battle he survived it and returned back to USA off course he was rewarded heavily by the government, and that lead to his retirement. But after his retirement, he began to behave funny like forgetting all he did in the past, and sometimes don’t recognize me his wife quickly. I took him to Military hospital, and the doctor said some king of liquid in his body is causing him so many reactions, and this is affecting his brain to cut the long story short, after much diagnoses using EEG, and also the test of PROTEIN 14-3-3 all pointing out to the fact that his brain has malfunction. So he was giving medicines but his condition was still becoming worse even while taking the medicines administered. So we went back to the military hospital, and he was finally diagnosed of Alzheimer’s disease and this the doctor said have no cure. So his conditions began to get worst by the day. I cried out for help, but the government only gave us financial support. I all the time surf the web looking for possible cure until I ran into a blog where a man named James Watt gave testimony on how his cousin was cured of CJD by an herbal doctor called Doctor Uwadia Amenifo. In his testimony he imputed the contact detail of the herbalist. So I quickly copied out the contact details of Uwadia, and I contacted him immediately and explained to him what my husband is going through. He encouraged me and promised me that surly he will cure my husband, so after all necessary arrangement was made; he prepared the herbal medicine, and shipped it to me in USA, so I followed his instructions, and gave the medicine to my husband. Behold just like a magic in my eyes my husband was responding positively to the medicine and in just less than 3 weeks I started giving him the medicine, he was very okay, and in less than 7 weeks my husband was totally curd, and as I speak to you now my husband is totally cured, and he is now very okay, and in good health. So please all here shall help me say a big thanks to Doctor Uwadia Amenifo for helping me cure my husband of his Alzheimer’s disease. Please if you need Doctor Uwadia’s contact details, here is it. Email (doctoruwadiaamenifo@gmail.com) and his number is (+2349052015874). God bless all.

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