Caregiving for your loved one with dementia, especially during a crisis, can present special challenges. Those with dementia often do not do well with changes in their routine, making it difficult to care for them when the unexpected happens.
In the early hours of a chilly October morning, Rick donned his bomber jacket and hat, and stealthily snuck into the carport, his trusty shaving kit in hand. He quietly pushed his golf cart down the long gravel driveway before starting it, as to not wake his wife. The former Korean War pilot navigated back roads to the bank, where he withdrew $1,000.
Throughout our lives, we can call a variety of places home. For me, one of those places was my grandmother’s house. I’ve been going in and out of her house since I was a baby. I knew every inch of my grandmother’s house, like which rooms had the best hiding spots or which drawers held my grandma’s fancy scarves.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in some way. But our most vulnerable population, our senior citizens — especially those with dementia — are being particularly challenged. Our normal routines have been altered during the pandemic. This can be devastating for dementia patients, who thrive on the consistency of a regular routine.
The COVID-19 pandemic has all of us dealing with additional stressors in life, and many of us may
find that our abilities to deal with conflict and issues are short-fused. People living with dementia (PLWD) rely on their care partners to provide assistance with activities of daily living with kindness and compassion. PLWD also require mental stimulation, socialization and a reason to live just as much as you and I do. COVID-19 has changed our world into a place where we no longer feel safe, and social distancing has left many people feeling lonely, depressed and isolated.
If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, know that you are not alone. Know that you are not the only one who has experienced the wrath of these diseases or felt the roller coaster of emotions that accompanies watching a loved one disappear.
Pomai has become worried as she sees Papa, her grandfather, become more forgetful. She wants Papa to play with her, but he is losing his memory and is no longer able to make poi with her or take her to the beach. In Pomai and Her Papa: Growing Up with Memory Loss and Holding On to What Matters Most, a short, illustrated storybook, Pomai sets off on her journey to learn how to help Papa and her family.
Deciding when is the right time to find senior care for your kupuna can be an intimidating task. You want to provide the best care possible for them, but how do you know if it’s the right time; where do you start? First, understand and identify the level of care your senior needs to conduct day-to-day activities and care for themselves.
As a dementia educator, I am often asked why people living with dementia (PLWD) ask the same question over and over again. My reply is, “Because their brain is failing.” Every day, PLWDs are going through chemical and physical brain changes. Due to brain failure causing multiple problems with short-term memory, a PLWD can get themselves caught in a loop of asking the same questions. Here are some suggestions for the next time you recognize the start of another loop of questions.
People living with dementia need guidance, human connection and a sense of independence. In my professional practice, we use the Positive Physical Approach. This innovative modality developed by Teepa Snow teaches family caregivers more effective ways to understand and communicate with their loved ones and all people with dementia.
GEMS® is a staging system for dementia. Teepa Snow, OTR and founder of the Positive Approach to Care® philosophy, recreated the Allen Cognitive system of staging dementia with a positive twist. We can now view our Person Living With Dementia as one of Teepa’s GEMS® rather than on a scale of 1 to 7 or on a scale of mild cognitive impairment to profoundly demented.
Do you know a Person Living With Dementia (PLWD) who repeatedly asks the same question? Does your loved one obsess about leaving the house so that they can go home? Maybe you know of a grandmother who blames everyone in sight for stealing her items. Challenging behaviors are common among PLWD and care partners are burning out trying to address these problems.
One of the challenges for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is finding ways to engage their loved one or patient in tasks that strengthen the ability to recall who people are and what their relationship with them is. Dr. Warren Wong, a local geriatrician with decades of experience working with such patients, took on that challenge and has developed a free iPad app to fill that need: MemorC.
Human beings use five ways to take in data: sight, touch, smell, taste and sound. From the time we are born, we prefer to take in data first by what we see, then hear and finally through touch. Vision, our primary source for processing new information, is controlled by an area in the back of our brain called the occipital lobe. Dementia attacks and damages the occipital lobe resulting in skewed vision, poor depth perception and diminished peripheral vision.
At some point we’ve all had times of forgetfulness or misplacing things. Our keys get lost or we draw a blank trying to remember where the car is parked or what we just ate for breakfast. We can usually sort it out and remember things with some time and patience. But when is forgetfulness or memory loss of concern?
People living with dementia (PLWD) have challenges with verbal communication: language comprehension, speech production, and vocabulary. But they are not unconscious to what is going on around them. Even as the brain declines, emotional intelligence is preserved. PLWD take in data visually rather than auditorily and react to what they think is happening. As caregivers we must remember that PLWD are really doing the best they can with the abilities they have left.
As we age, our hearing often loses its edge. Clinical research suggests that hearing loss can have a negative effect on some key measures of healthy aging as cognitive, physical and social functioning decline. A study by the National Institute on Aging indicates that people with untreated hearing loss are significantly more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In home care, a question I often get is how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s who asks the same questions over and over again. To better understand and manage what’s going on, it helps to first know a bit on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Recognizing the growing burden of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Alzheimer’s Association launched “The Healthy Brain Initiative” in 2013 to improve the diagnosis of dementia, and find and institute preventive measures.