November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Some think memory loss is just a facet of growing old. However, it is not part of the normal aging process. Exercise, family history, diet and cardiovascular disease effect the onset.
According to the 2010 World Alzheimer’s Report, there are over 35.6 million people worldwide living with some form of dementia. The number is expected to grow to over 65 million by 2030.
Dr. Amy D’Aprix, an expert in aging, retirement and caregiving, helped to create the Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias CARE: Changing Aging through Research and Education Training Program.
This program offers education, strategies and support for the family caregiver. It also provides insight into the aging process, beginning with understanding that physical behaviors do not always originate in the brain.
They may stem from other health-related causes such as dehydration, malnourishment, constipation, medication reactions, depression, an infection (such as a urinary tract infection), pain, hearing or vision problems.
Sometimes just correcting these problems can reduce behavior problems such as agitation, repetition or aggression.
Coping with behavioral changes can be frustrating. It challenges the cohesiveness of families and creates physical and emotional stress on the caregiver.
Some approaches that have been proven to be useful include redirecting the senior to another related topic.
Offer simple choices because too many choices can be over-stimulating. Ask an either/or question such as “Do you want to wear the red dress or blue sweater?” This offers the senior feelings of control and self-worth.
Apologizing and taking the blame, even when it is not your fault, diffuses many situations. If an item is causing a conflict, physically remove the item from view or redirect the senior to another room so that the item is out of sight.
Ask for help. Trying to do it all by yourself can cause illness and resentment. Make sure you have an accurate diagnosis so you know what you are dealing with. Take time for yourself and schedule periods of rest.
Create a journal by capturing memories and writing them down. This can build a closer relationship.
Writing their memories of childhood, early adulthood, favorite foods, hobbies, first jobs, special awards, favorite recipes or different life experiences can help fill in the gaps and can become a very useful tool to the caregiver. They can create activities based upon those shared memories.
A favorite song, an old movie, a family tradition or a special event can help to create a positive connection. Play music from their era. Set the environment for reminiscing by turning off the TV, computer and cell phone.
Give them your full attention. Speak slowly and clearly. Use picture books of old photos to stimulate memories.
Ask for their help in completing a familiar activity like folding the laundry or drying dishes. Try rephrasing things. Take your time and be patient, pleasant, positive and supportive.
Regular routines, exercise, reminiscing, current events, socialization or familiar games help to reduce disruptive behaviors, promote wellness,and create a sense of fun. Keep the task simple. Praise them for their accomplishments. Be sincere. Incorporate the five senses, such as touch, texture, taste, smell, music or pictures.
Self-care is very important and necessary as the calmer that you are, the more likely they will be less agitated and easier to redirect.
Be sure to get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, eat well-balanced meals and drink plenty of fluids. Keep good social connections. Schedule time to be with the people in your life.
Maintain regular spiritual or religious practices. Counter stress through relaxation exercises, self-awareness and regulate your caffeine intake.
See the world in 15- minute segments at a time. Be kind to yourself. Know that a range of emotions is normal. It is what you do with them that count. Validate what you are feeling. Take time to journal or talk about it. Seek help from others.
Citation: Dubel, Michele. “Navigating the Challenges of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Ellwood City Ledger. Ellwood City Ledger, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2012. http://www.ellwoodcityledger.com/columnists/michele_dubel/navigating-the-challenges-of-alzheimer-s-disease/article_a20aeb65-e8bf-583d-88db-e13b07749777.html