Caregiver Tips: Elderly with Alzheimer’s disease, lose the ability to care for themselves in reverse order they gained ability.

Losing the ability to care for yourself.

We know that no two people are exactly alike, and that Alzheimer’s disease affects people differently, depending on what area of the brain is most affected. The loss of function usually follows a pattern. Most elders lose abilities in the reverse order that they gained the ability.

The order you gain abilities.

Take the ability to dress themselves. Children learn first to put on simple items such as shirt and pants. The child progresses to being able to button, put on socks and shoes, and later tie her shoes. For a long time she may put on shorts with a winter sweater before learning that certain things go together. She progresses to the point where she learns the necessity of changing and wearing clean clothes. And eventually she learns about the right season, occasion, or temperature for which she is dressing.

Losing abilities – dressing.

Elders with Alzheimer’s disease will lose the last learned ability first. They will be unable to dress correctly for the season or temperature. So you may see elders in summer with a winter coat and hat on that they insist on wearing. They are still able to follow through with the long practiced skills of putting on clothes correctly, but they can no longer choose appropriately. See: Caregiver Tip: Working with Patients with Alzheimer’s disease using Body Memory

Losing abilities – incontinence.

The most troublesome ability for elders with Alzheimer’s disease is the issue of continence. Small children will become continent of bowels before urine. They progress to be able to toilet themselves and finally to provide for their own hygiene. So also, the elder losing the skills in the reverse order no longer provides adequate bathroom hygiene. Then he has trouble making it to the bathroom in time, or finds the bathroom, but becomes incontinent of urine and finally bowels. Knowing this progression of the disease can aid family members in their expectations of the elder.

BOOK EXCERPT FROM:  Please Get To Know Me – Aging with Dignity and Relevance by – Virginia Garberding with Cecil Murphey

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