Life with Mom
—-This is a story of a shared life with Mom after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.—
Every seventy seconds, another person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). And although I knew the statistics were attention-grabbing, putting it in the “70 second” format caused a bout of palpitations and mild shortness of breath. I don’t think my symptoms were detectable to the rest of the attendees at last night’s Alzheimer’s Series at our local library – at least I hope they weren’t.
Our speaker, Erica, provided another round of informative details with which to arm us with knowledge and resources if ever we find ourselves dealing with someone who we suspect or know is having trouble with thinking and memory skills. It might even be ourselves.
Some of the information was a repeat from her lecture last month, but the fact that it was said again makes it more valuable and understandable. Some of those repeats were:
–Dementia is a condition of which there are many causes. Alzheimer’s is just one cause. There are many other causes which are more treatable and curable. Urinary tract infections, B-6 and B-12 deficiencies, depression, and thyroid dysfunctions are some examples of treatable diseases which cause dementia, and can be treated effectively in most cases.
-Early diagnosis for any cause of dementia is most valuable. Even if it is Alzheimer’s Disease, treatment can begin earlier, and there is also time for the person with AD to be involved in the planning. Erica said that all too often, people begin addressing the problem when it has reached a crisis level. Things are never addressed as well under these circumstances.
-“If it’s good for your heart…” Erica stressed that keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes under good control will reduce the risk for getting AD.
-Age is the biggest risk factor.
The following bullets contain some of the new information from this session:
-Sleep is extremely important. Sleep and memory storage are closely linked.
-Diagnosis is usually made by exception. In other words, when everything else has been ruled out.
-When you’re dealing with someone with AD, respond to the emotion, not the details. One example she gave was a women who lived in the facility that Erica worked in. The women, extremely upset, approached Erica and told her that her daughter was stealing money from her bank account. Instead of telling the Patient that it wasn’t true, Erica called the “Bank” (she really called the receptionist upstairs) while the patient was present, and explained that a block had to be put on the patients account because her daughter was stealing money. The “Bank Teller” talked to the patient and reassured her that it was all taken care of, and no more money would be stolen. The patient was satisfied.
This goes against the old “Reality Orientation” approach, but we know better now. Go to where they’re at. It’s so much more humane.
–While drug trials require the involvement of people who have been diagnosed with AD, they also need people who don’t have the disease for the control groups.
Call National Alzheimer’s Association at 1.800.272.3900 to see if any trials are being conducted near you.
-Six out of 10 people wander off. The “Safe Return” program is available, and extremely valuable if a loved one leaves home undetected.
My father had a “Safe Return” bracelet and necklace, and it came in handy at least on one occasion that I can think of. He wandered several times, but didn’t have this ID until later in his disease.
–The “Safe Return” program also has ID bracelets and necklaces for the care giver. In the event that the caregiver is out at the grocery store and gets into an accident or has a medical emergency, their ID would indicate to emergency personnel that there is someone at home with AD who needs supervision, etc.
-“Comfort Zone” is a GPS, web based program that allows the person with dementia to continue to be independent driving (if reasonable) with a GPS unit attached to their car, and set at a one mile radius, or any distance that is appropriate for that person. As soon as that person breaks that barrier, an alert system is set off and family members are notified. If three people have been listed to be notified, all three can be notified in the way that is best for them. For example, one can be called on their cell, one can receive an email, and the other a text message.
A program that is extremely high-tech and versatile. Keeping up with the times.
When the lecture was over, the man in front of Mom and I turned around and introduced himself as a reporter and asked if he could interview us. I deferred to Mom…after all, this era is about her, and she said yes. He didn’t commit to writing or submitting the article to the local community news, but we’ll keep an eye out for it. You never know.
Caregiver Stress is the title of the next program. We plan to attend.