Friday, October 24, 2008

Dementia 101 for caregivers

Altzheimer's Disease, with its dementia symptoms, is a difficult disorder for family members.

During our local Cranfest, one family lost their mother. There were thousands of people in town an she was behind her daughter one minute, gone the next. Volunteers and the OPP spent hours looking for her. She ended up south - along the highway.

A Toronto woman wandered from her home through downtown, finally being picked up by a security guard.
The Alzheimer Society offers training programs for EMS response teams. What they have found is that such patients tend to walk in a straight line. Who knew?

Alzheimer Society provide many resources. The Ontario government has created a 2-1-1 phone number, as well as web site for information. "Easy access to community, social, health
and related government services
in Ontario " My advice: Read all you can! Many people are publishing memoirs that document a familiar struggle. it may help to know what others face.
CCAC might refer you to local agencies:
The Friends, for example, provides Day Away Programs, Respite Care, Home Support as a Nonprofit, government supported Transfer Payment Agency (many such agencies exist in local communities).

For caregivers, there are lessons in Jill Bolte Taylor's book, My Stroke of Insight.
In it, she explains the difference between left-brain, logical linear thought, and right brain holistic emotions and feelings. The right brain knows your emotions, and when the left brain shuts down, or off, the Fight or Flight response kicks in and stress ensues. If you approach care recipients with a soft, gentle approach they will understand your intent and feel your positive thoughts.Caregivers and mental, or Primary Care service providers must be fully present with their clients. If there is a left brain injury this presence is a comforting influence on the care recipient.

Her lessons for caregivers adds up to several points that can be applied to caregiving roles, add in my own experiences and I suggest:
  1. Speak to the client/patient directly, show them that respect
  2. Understand that they are ill, not stupid.
  3. They might be cognitively challenged but they are human.
  4. Those with brain injuries (dementia is a symptom) require sleep.
  5. Understand that background noises may be difficult for those trying to process information.
  6. Right brain activities: picture, images, memory or life books help sooth and give the client a sense of who they are.
There are tests for brain function. The clock test is a good one. Draw a circle and ask the patient to fill in the hands of the clock and number them.

Dr. Mehmet Oz say to ask the patient to both raise their hands to shoulder level and smile. This test lest you know if they can function on a motor level, and process information.
With 50 trillion brain cells, it is no wonder that something can go wrong, and the brain can compensate for brain-related issues. Caregivers must be vigilant for signs of dementia as there are treatment options.

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