Patients may also experience more delusions, hallucinations, sleep disturbances, and physical and verbal outbursts. Communication Tips As memory loss becomes more severe in later stages, patients may lose all ability to communicate and will rely heavily on their physicians and caretakers to monitor their pain and comfort or give them nonverbal cues of their needs. The Alzheimer's Association recommends the following communication tactics for treating patients in the severe stage:.
Avoid talking down to the person or as though he or she isn't there. If you don't understand what is being said, ask the person to point or gesture. Look for the feelings behind words or sounds. What They Mean AD is a neurodegenerative disease and, as it progresses, brain cells begin to deteriorate, causing behavioral changes such as those described in the stages above. However, it's important to note that especially in later stages, there may be other factors influencing these behaviors. To determine what is triggering behavioral changes in patients, physicians must thoroughly evaluate them using physical and mental status examinations and laboratory and imaging studies.
The side effects or interactions of some prescription medications, including antipsychotics often used for AD, may influence patient behavior. If a patient is unable to communicate about how he or she is feeling, it is likely the individual will not receive treatment to relieve pain and other symptoms, causing irritability and anger.
Some patients may experience hearing or vision loss as the disease progresses and, if not repaired, this may cause confusion or frustration. Change can be stressful for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for a person with AD to manage. Big changes such as moving to a new nursing home or being admitted to the hospital and small changes such as being asked to change clothes can result in fear and fatigue. Once the cause of a problem is determined, a proper care plan should be developed to address the source and provide the patient with the highest possible quality of life.
Treatments for Behavioral Side Effects AD affects each person differently; therefore, no two patients should be treated the same. Care should be delivered to meet an individual's needs, encouraging long-term successful management of the physical, emotional, and cognitive health challenges associated with the disease. Medications such as risperidone and haloperidol are often prescribed to AD patients to treat behavioral symptoms and help them avoid higher levels of care in nursing homes and special care units.
However, there are other treatments that can be used in combination with or in place of these medications, such as the following:. For patients showing signs of anger or fear, emotional support from family, peers, and a counselor is highly important. Group therapy has been shown to improve both cognitive and behavioral symptoms for AD patients. Without social interaction, individuals with AD may become subdued and depressed. Activities as simple as going for a walk, listening to music, or spending time with pets can enhance a patient's quality of life and minimize behaviors related to psychosis.
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Managing a patient's nutrition and water intake is imperative to preserve good brain function. Older adults are at increased risk for dehydration because the sensation of thirst decreases with age. This can lead to muscle weakness, headaches, and sleepiness. While there is no curative treatment for AD, there are many things physicians and caregivers can do to ensure patients live as comfortably as possible as the disease progresses.
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As a caregiver, this is a necessary attribute to your skill set. Everything you want to do will take more time than you think. There are no dumb questions. Remember, they work for you. No one works 24 hours a day. Make sure to schedule some time to take a walk, get a massage, or even go to a movie. Connect to your spiritual side. Maintaining your faith or finding the faith that you lost is a significant coping mechanism on this caregiving journey.
Spiritual leaders will often make visits to your home to provide spiritual guidance to both you and your loved one. Talk about your feelings about being a caregiver to someone you trust. Talk to your loved one about their feelings about their health. Talking makes any relationship a closer and more loving one. Are they looking for a shoulder to cry on? Are they in pain? Is it something more? Visiting nurses are the unsung heroes of the healthcare industry.
They save you trips to the emergency room. They can treat and help diagnose a myriad of health problems. They can get through to a doctor immediately. If needed, they are a link to hospice.
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You must talk about what their final wishes are including funeral arrangements, do not resuscitate instructions or quality of life issues. We all know the benefits of exercise. As a caregiver, exercise is even more important. You need to maintain your own health as well.
While this is near the end of our list, YOU should be at the top. You, as a caregiver, will be facing a whole new world of challenges.
That makes you a special and loving person. You are providing help to someone who desperately needs it. Even if it is done wrong, the person will feel worthy and useful.
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If the person is agitated, he or she may not be able to tell you why. Is she hungry or thirsty?
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Does he have to go to the bathroom? You will make them.
You will say and do the wrong things. Forgive yourself — caregiving is a very hard job. Never argue with the person with dementia. It causes agitation for both of you and makes everything harder. Like on an airplane, take your oxygen first. If you are not a strong, healthy caregiver, you cannot be strong for the person with the disease.
It can take someone with dementia longer to understand your question and come up with an answer. TV, radio, and several conversations at once make it hard for the person to concentrate.
Alzheimer's Basic Caregiving - An ABC Guide
Go to a quiet place to visit or connect. If the person is frustrated or upset, try changing the topic or environment. Suggest a favorite activity, or offer some tea or ice cream.