What to Consider When Arranging Care for Dementia Patients

Article excerpt

Byline: Jean Murphy

Anyone who has been through it can tell you that watching a loved one succumb to Alzheimer's disease or any other form of dementia is agonizing. The person you have known and loved for years literally disappears into their own mind over time and it becomes impossible to reach them by the end.

In the beginning, dementia appears as simple forgetfulness, changes to short-term memory and difficulty communicating (either searching for words or having trouble processing what is said to them), according to Danielle Dodson, care navigator/clinical supervisor with the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Illinois Chapter.

Then you notice they are having trouble with complex activities like paying their bills and eventually with simple activities like dressing themselves. They also become disoriented about what time of day it is, where they are and who you are, Dodson added.

And eventually some patients' mood and behavior change. They can become agitated and aggressive. Many pace and begin to wander.

Medications like Aracept, Exelon, Razadyne and Namenda get prescribed to slow the progression of the disease by working on the chemicals in the brain, but Dodson emphasized that these drugs do not cure the disease or reverse its effects. They simply slow down the way the disease ravages the brain.

"How a family chooses to care for someone with Alzheimer's disease will vary from person to person and family to family and it will change as the disease

progresses because the option that works in the beginning may not work later on," Dodson explained.

The Alzheimer's Association urges family members and caregivers to consider their own and their family's health and stress level when deciding on the best care option for their loved one, Dodson said.

If you have someone in the household with severe impairments, everyone has to change positions. It affects every member of the family's roles and the tasks they need to manage and it also affects interpersonal relationships. Witnessing these changes take place in a loved one can produce untold stress on a family and often resurrects old conflicts, according to Dodson.

It is also important to consider how the dementia patient's presence in the house may be affecting the children and teens living there.

"You shouldn't ask a child or teen to be responsible for an Alzheimer's patient's care. There is too much involved and that puts too many expectations on that child or teen," Dodson explained.

But overseeing interaction between a child or teen and the Alzheimer's patient is a different story. That can be very beneficial to both as long as the disease and the fact that it is not contagious is carefully explained to the child in advance. …