ALZHEIMER’S BASICS & COMMUNICATION
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
• Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It is not a normal part of aging.
• Alzheimer’s gets worse over time. Although symptoms can vary widely, the first problem many people notice is forgetfulness severe enough to affect their ability to function at home or at work, or to enjoy lifelong hobbies.
• The disease may cause a person to become confused, lost in familiar places, misplace things or have trouble with language.
Being an Alzheimer’s caregiver is hard work that requires a lot of knowledge and many skills for getting along and for connecting with the person. Here are some tips to help you out on our care giving journey:
• Don’t Ask, “Do you remember?” Of course, they can’t remember. If they could remember, they wouldn’t be diagnosed with dementia. Asking if they remember some person or event could make them frustrated.
• Do interact with the Person at His or Her level: You may want to interact with the person the way you always have, but that isn’t going to be possible. Instead, figure out at what age they appear to be behaving, then connect with them at that level.
• To connect with people who have Alzheimer’s put something meaningful in their hand; You may have to experiment some to find out what is meaningful to any specific person.
• To connect with people with Late-Stage Alzheimer’s, try introducing them to children, pets, music or art: These four activities will often reach people in the late stages of the illness — even if they hardly talk anymore.
• Don’t argue, correct, disagree or bring up topics that may upset the person: You can’t win an argument with a person who has dementia, so don’t even try. Neither should you contradict them. It will make them dig in their heels even more strongly. Do quickly change the subject if the person does get upset.
• Don’t quit visiting when the person doesn’t know who you are: Just because your loved one or client does not recognize you doesn’t mean they have no feelings. People with Alzheimer’s may enjoy being visited even if they don’t know precisely who the visitor is.
Behavior: Some Tips for Caregivers
Create a calm, safe environment that may be better suited for the person’s abilities:
- Eliminate clutter, noise, glare and excessive background noise
- Develop soothing rituals with regular daily routines, comforting objects, gentle music and a reassuring touch
- Provide opportunities for exercise and satisfying activities geared to the person’s abilities
- Monitor personal comfort; ensure a comfortable temperature and check regularly for pain, hunger, thirst, constipation, full bladder, fatigue, infection and skin irritation
- Be sensitive to frustration about expressing wants and needs
- Rather than argue or disagree, redirect the person’s attention
- Simplify tasks and routines
- Avoid open-ended questions; ask yes or no questions instead
- Allow enough rest between stimulating events, such as visits from friends or neighbors
- Use labels to cue or remind the person
- Equip doors and gates with safety locks
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
The Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Memory Loss
10 Warning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease:
1. Memory Loss that Disrupts Daily life
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
4. Confusion with time or place
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8. Decreased or poor judgment
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
10. Changes in mood and personality
Stages of the Disease
1. No impairment – person does not experience any memory problems.
2. Very mild decline – person may feel that he/she is having memory lapses; forgetting common words or the location of items.
3. Mild cognitive decline – friends, family or co-workers begin to notice difficulties; problems coming up with the right word or name; trouble remembering names when introduced to new people, greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings; forgetting material that one has just read; losing or misplacing a valuable object; increasing trouble with planning or organizing.
4. Moderate cognitive decline – forgetfulness of recent events; impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic; greater difficulty performing complex tasks, such as planning dinner for guests, paying bills or managing finances; forgetfulness about one’s own personal history; becoming moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations.
5. Moderately severe cognitive decline – unable to recall their own address or phone number; become confused about where they are or what day it is; have trouble with less challenging mental arithmetic; need help choosing proper clothing for the season or occasion; still remember significant details about themselves and their family; continue to eat or use the toilet unassisted.
6. Severe cognitive decline – lose awareness of recent experiences as well as their surrounding; remember their own name but have difficulty with their personal history; distinguish familiar and unfamiliar faces but have trouble remembering the name of as spouse or caregiver; need help dressing properly and may, without supervision, make mistakes such as putting pajamas over
daytime clothes or shoes on the wrong feet; experience major changes in sleep patterns (sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night); need help handling details of the toilet (e.g. flushing the toilet, wiping or disposing of tissue properly); have increasingly frequent trouble controlling their bladder or bowels; experience major personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions (e.g., believing the caregiver is an impostor) or compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or issue shredding; tend to wander or become lost.
7. Very severe cognitive decline – individuals lose the ability to respond to the environment, to carry on a conversation and eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases; individuals need help with much of their daily personal care, including eating or using the toilet; may also lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their heads up, reflexes become abnormal, muscles grow rigid; swallowing is impaired.
COMMUNICATING WITH A CLIENT WHO HAS ALZHEIMER’S
Alzheimer and Dementia can gradually diminish a person’s ability to communicate. Not only do people with dementia have difficulty expressing thoughts and expression, they also have more trouble understanding others. The ability to exchange our ideas, wishes, feelings is a basic need.
Best way to Communicate:
Call person by name
Use short simple words and sentences
Speak slowly and clearly
Give one-step direction
Ask one question at a time
Patiently wait for a response
Give visual cues
Give simple explanations
Write things down
Beware of your tone of voice
Pay attention to your body language
Help a person Communicate:
• Be patient and supportive
• Show your interest
• Offer Comfort and reassurance
• Give person time to put their thoughts together
• Avoid correcting them
• Do not interrupt
• Avoid correcting
• Do not argue with them