6 WAYS TO MANAGE ANGRY OUTBURSTS BY THE ELDER WITH DEMENTIA

Mike was visiting his daughter Marge and her family for the 4th of July holiday. Mike had called ahead and insisted he was bringing all the food. He arrived during a heavy downpour, and Marge standing on her porch urged him to stay in the car till the rain stopped. Mike proceeded by demonstrating an inability to reason on something so simple as staying out of the rain, and then immediately becoming angry, thus began the unhappy holiday.

Mike stated “No one was going to tell him what to do.” And he proceeded to get out of his car, struggling with his walker as he tried to carry his groceries to the porch. Mike not only wasn’t going to be told what to do, but he very much wanted to direct his daughter. When Marge said she would be waiting for the rain to stop before moving groceries, Mike went right into his now frequent response of “just do what I tell you!”

Starting the visit all wet did nothing to improve Mike’s mood. From this unfortunate beginning, Mike proceeded to engage his teenage grandchildren in conversation regarding the dishonesty of the healthcare industry.  Saying everyone in healthcare is crooked and only in it for the money. Mike’s son-in-law a dentist, quickly became frustrated with Mike’s outrageous behavior and soon was asking Mike to leave.

6 Ways to manage angry outbursts by the elder with dementia:

  • realize that this is an episode of agitated behavior and that in order to manage this well you need to be in control of your own emotions
  • take care of yourself first – whether it is with taking some deep breaths or whatever you normally do that helps you to remain calm
  • be aware that arguing or trying to reason with the unreasonable person with dementia is not possible
  • remove the “audience” it is harder for Mike to back down from outrageous things he says if the whole family is there, and seeing himself as the father figure, he wants to save face
  • instead of several family members entering into this argument making Mike think everyone is against him, only one person should engage in de-escalating the situation
  • be respectful and avoid becoming defensive, the angry words even if directed at you are not about you

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing

DELUSIONAL NEIGHBOR – EARLY DEMENTIA

Bob considers himself a lover of animals, he feels all the little animals in his community need him. Bob would be amazed to know he is considered a “delusional neighbor.” Bob is well known in his condo community as the owner who is bringing an unwanted amount of small critters to the property. Bob throws peanuts and bread out his 4th floor windows into trees below and onto neighbor’s patios morning. noon and night to feed his friends. Bob extends his feeding to the parking lot, putting food out every evening next to his car, resulting in bringing skunks to the property.

As neighbors try to reason with Bob, pointing out the heavily treed grounds with many walnut trees for the squirrels and natural sources of food for all, Bob continues to throw out food. And that is the problem, you cannot reason away a delusion. A delusion is a fixed false belief that isn’t able to be changed by presenting facts or explanations.

Bob has lived in this condo, with these neighbors for 18 years. To all outward appearances Bob hasn’t changed much over these years. He has always lived alone here in his condo. Bob drives a car, maintains his property, even investing in upgrades as needed. Bob always appears clean and well groomed, wearing clean clothes. Bob does his own grocery shopping and prepares his own food.

However for the last year Bob has been so sure that the animals need him and need food, that he has gone against all the established rules of the condo association. He argues with his neighbors and although he has been fined multiple times for feeding the animals he has vowed not to stop.

Recently Bob has solved his own problem by deciding to move. He is relocating about 15 miles away from the condo and interestingly from his beloved critters. I can only wonder if he will leave this delusion behind and in the new and strange environment develop a new delusion. Suspicions and delusions are common in people with early memory loss. When the memory loss makes the person feel like something is wrong, but they cannot identify what the problem is, they will create a new explanation that, for them fits the facts.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing

REASONS FOR SUDDEN DEMENTIA – DELIRIUM AND DEMENTIA Part III

As stated in Part I of this series on Sudden Dementia, the key here is to have the diagnosis, of delirium. Once the patient has the diagnosis, the nursing home is mandated by Medicare to investigate all of the previously mentioned  probable causes. The nurse or nursing assistant may be very concerned, and listen to the story of how rapid this change came over this patient, but there will be little follow though with this information. Only physicians, and nurse practitioners are able to write a diagnosis,and the delirium diagnosis is what drives the investigation.

As well as the previously mentioned possible causes in part I and part II, there will be attention given to the circulatory system, the respiratory system and metabolism. Circulatory – did the patient possibly have a stroke, are they in congestive heart failure, have they had a heart attack, or are they possibly suffering from severe anemia?  Respiratory – does the patient have asthma, emphysema, or is in respiratory failure? Lack of oxygen to the brain caused by a circulatory or respiratory condition can cause confusion.

Does the patient have a metabolic problem – diabetes, or thyroid disease? Anyone familiar with and experiencing these disease processes knows how they can impact so many other areas of the patient’s health. Ruling out these very significant  disease states is extremely important.

The center for Medicare Services has created this special focus for delirium showing how seriously this condition is viewed. When a patient in a nursing home, covered by Medicare, the patient’s power of attorney for healthcare is able to ask to see the patient’s diagnosis. Reviewing the diagnoses and making sure that someone who doesn’t know the patient’s history has called this sudden confusion, Alzheimer’s disease, is very important. Once the patient has the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s , the healthcare community finds no need to look any further.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing 

REASONS FOR SUDDEN DEMENTIA – DELIRIUM AND DEMENTIA Part II

The Center for Medicare requires healthcare professionals to investigate causes and reasons for sudden dementia including these changes:

SIGNS OF POSSIBLE DEHYDRATION

  • recent decrease in volume of urine, more concentrated urine or a darker color
  • recent decrease in eating habits, skipping meals, leaving food uneaten, weight loss
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or blood loss
  • receiving IV drugs
  • receiving diuretics or drugs that might cause electrolyte imbalance

FUNCTIONAL DECLINE

  • falls or increased risk for falls
  • recent decline in the ability for self-care in hygiene, dressing, walking, eating, etc.

MEDICATION REVIEW

This area requires the services of the pharmacist. A medication review would first focus on new or recent medications and possible interactions with other medications the patient is taking. All narcotics need to be investigated, the elderly may become unreasonable, angry, or argumentative on narcotic medications. All behaviors that are different for the patient since beginning a new medication must be explored. Especially so for any drugs used to change or modify  behaviors such as anti-anxiety, antidepressants, sleep medications and of course anti-psychotic medications.

SOCIAL CHANGES

  • social withdrawal – recent loss of a family member or friend
  • recent changes in mood – crying or anxious\
  • a recent move – out of state or from home to facility

UNUSUAL BEHAVIORS

  • recent change in sleep habits, sleeplessness at night and sleeping during the day – nightmares
  • unusual, inappropriate or unsafe movements
  • hyper-active or hypo-active, a recent change to the extreme in a person’s level of activity

 

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing

DEMENTIA FROM ALCOHOL AND THE FAMILY IN DENIAL

Long before experiencing dementia from alcohol, the alcoholic has spent a life time trying to hide his alcoholism from family, friends and even medical professionals. So when the illness progresses to the dementing stage the  family who is in denial, now takes over not only the feelings of guilt and shame the alcoholic experienced. But also the active role of concealing the real cause of the dementia.  Dementia from alcohol doesn’t come on rapidly, but after a long time of alcohol abuse.

During those years of alcohol abuse the family maintains a code of secrecy, looking away and in so doing gives the abuser little reason to seek help. Family and friends are referred to as “co-alcoholics” due to their role in maintaining the alcoholic’s excuses, thereby promoting continued abuse.

Enabling, references the families efforts to protect the alcoholic from the consequences of their drinking. Supporting statements of needing “something to unwind,” ignoring odd or inappropriate behavior, and not identifying times when the alcoholic is not physically or emotionally available, are ways in which families protect the drinker. By not addressing the abuse the family gives the alcoholic little reason to seek help.

The alcoholic most likely, because he is enabled, will not seek help until he hits rock bottom. However more often than not, the abuser experiences dementia from alcohol and long term placement becomes necessary before he has the opportunity to make that choice. Once in long term placement the family and friends then continue the charade by finding a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease more acceptable than dementia from alcohol abuse.

The true numbers of persons with dementia from alcohol will most likely never be know because of the family continuing their role of “co-alcoholics.”  While healthcare professionals avoid questions about alcohol consumption so they are not seen as being “intrusive.”

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing

DEMENTIA STAGES – TIME LINE

While every person with dementia has a different experience and progression. For dementia symptoms that follow the decline due to Alzheimer’s disease, these changes can be tracked in the following way.

Mild Cognitive Impairment: Very early changes noted in areas of forgetfulness, problems in locating lost/misplaced objects and loss of words. Changes cause concern yet mild cognitive impairment does not always progress to dementia. Many elderly people never experience an increase in this level of confusion. (this lose can occur very gradually over up to 10 years)

Very Early Dementia: No longer able to be gainfully employed, may becoming lost in familiar community, experiences anxiety due to having trouble always understanding environment.   Very important at this time to have hearing and vision checked to support the elder in understanding the environment. (2 years)

Early Dementia: Now diagnosed with dementia, possibly of the Alzheimer’s type, no longer able to handle finances, trouble identifying money, no longer able to do meal planning, no longer driving, unable to live independently, flattening of expression  (most noticeable in family group photos), emotional problems, withdrawn, tearfulness and sometimes anger. Starting to have problems with appropriate clothing choices and hygiene. (2 years)

Mid-Dementia Stage: Now need caregiver support for hands on assistance in hygiene, bathing, dressing, toileting, brushing teeth, significant problems with communication uses few words, is now incontinent of urine and beginning to be incontinent of bowel as well. Continues to be able to eat independently but totally dependent in all other areas of eating even cutting food and pouring beverages. (2 years)

Late Stage Dementia: Total care in all areas of life, need to be physically fed all foods, non-verbal, few people can walk at this point,  and requiring to be re-positioned when in bed, no longer moves independently.

Dementia stages vary depending on the disease causing the dementia, most notably in dementia caused by delirium or early onset dementia. The person with early onset dementia who is diagnosed at a young age goes through the dementia stages at a much faster pace.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing 

 

WHAT DOES THE PERSON WITH DEMENTIA NEED?

The person with dementia needs to feel safe, but not in a way that they feel restricted. The person with dementia has a need to understand. The person with dementia has a need to be understood. The person with dementia has a need to be healthy and physically fit. The person with dementia has a need to be spoken to like an adult.

The need to feel safe, means feeling comfortable and accepted. Many times when a person with dementia moves into a nursing home, they will talk about “going home.” Home is where you are comfortable, accepted and you will not be forced into doing something. In the nursing home setting it takes about a month for many to no longer ask to go home. It is not that they are now resigned to being in the nursing home. It is that they finally feel that acceptance and feel at home.

The need to understand, and be understood. Persons with dementia have lost their normal forms of communication. They no longer can communicate verbally or non-verbally their needs. Even the person who still has words has trouble expressing their thoughts and feelings. Misinterpretation of their environment causes more misunderstanding and results in fear.

The person with dementia has a need for nutritious food and exercise.  Nutritious meals, no junk food, supplement with B vitamins for stress and brain health, fresh air and exercise results in better sleep. (B vitamins should only be taken in the morning so they do not disrupt sleep)

The person with dementia needs to be included in conversations. They need to be addressed by their preferred name or title.

The person with dementia struggles all day long to understand their world and make their needs known.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing

SUDDEN CONFUSION DUE TO TOXINS – Part I

Sudden confusion due to toxins may be expected and at times unexpected. Ralph was 86 when he decided that he was finished with dialysis. Ralph had end stage renal disease related to diabetes, and was on dialysis for over 10 years. Now Ralph decided that enough was enough and he wasn’t going any more. Ralph understood that this would be the end of his life. Without dialysis toxins would build up, and he would become very confused before those toxins would end his life.

Mike arrived at the nursing home due to extreme sudden confusion, related to alcohol abuse. A very long history of alcohol use and abuse. When Mike arrived he had been begging for money from strangers on the street in order to go to a hotel, because he was sure someone had put cameras all over his house. He thought he could no longer live in his home because there was a bomb, and he was being watched.

Many elderly suffer from sudden confusion due to medication mistakes. When the elder is managing their own medications and do not have a good reliable system in place, mistakes often happen. The elder then is admitted to a hospital where lab tests are run, and the medication is identified. However it might then take some time for that sudden confusion to resolve.

People as they age begin having more and more difficulty with toxins. This is due to the lifetime of environmental toxins their brain has been subjected to. Just one example is the history of using leaded gas, and the toxic effects due to use of that gas. Research studies have shown that older Americans have much higher levels of lead than younger people who were not exposed.

As the elder ages, they have a reduced brain capacity due the shrinkage of the brain. The combination of reduced brain capacity and that lifetime of exposure to many environmental toxins, put them at higher risk for sudden confusion. The elderly brain just has less to work with and at the same time more to deal with. (see also delirium)

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing

THE HIGH COST OF DEMENTIA TO SOCIETY, FAMILIES AND MOST OF ALL TO THE INDIVIDUAL

There is a high cost of dementia both to society as well as the individual and family. The cost to society through Medicare payments is not only high it is skyrocketing. Currently 1 in every 5 dollars spent is on elderly with dementia. The per-person cost to Medicare for taking care of persons with dementia is 19 times higher than the average per-person cost for all other seniors together. The total spending by families is close to the same as the government spends.

The cost of dementia to society:

  • Alzheimer’s is the most expensive condition in the nation. In 2014 the cost to Medicare and Medicaid was $150 billion with an estimated total cost of $214 billion. Estimates are that 2050 costs will escalate to $1.2 trillion dollars.
  • In 2014 an estimated 5.2 million Americans had dementia.
  • Of the over 5 million people with dementia age 65 and older, 3.2 million are women and 1.8 million are men.

The cost of dementia to families:

  • In 2013, 15.5 million friends and family provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to those with dementia. That care was valued at $220.2 billion dollars.
  • The emotional stress of care-giving for someone with dementia is so high it takes a devastating physical toll. Dementia caregivers, had $9.3 billion dollars in healthcare costs, of their own in 2013.
  • Women are more likely to be caregivers for those with dementia, more than 3 in 5 unpaid caregivers are women.
  • Because of their caregiving duties, nearly 19 percent of women caregivers had to quit work. This causes future consequences, when those women once again want to join the workforce.

The total cost to Medicare is $37 billion annually, and estimated to be $36 billion of cost to families. As staggering as these numbers are, the cost to the individual with dementia cannot be measured. The loss of memory, inability to concentrate, loss of social skills, deterioration in personal hygiene and appearance, difficulty communicating, disorientation and more, how are these costs calculated?

The high cost of dementia is shouldered by everyone.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and restorative Nursing

DEMENTIA BEHAVIORS – WHAT IS THE FIRST QUESTION TO ASK

To know if this is really a dementia behavior, ask the question, “What if this person was 20 instead of 80 years old?” This is a question I frequently ask caregivers when they report a elder with dementia as having “behaviors.” Because if this activity or response wouldn’t be a behavior for someone 20 why should it be for someone 80.

“Mary keeps standing up.”  That is the behavior the caregiver reports about her patient Mary. Well, I asked the caregiver,  “do you keep standing up?”  “Of course I stand up, all day I am getting up and down,” the caregiver shared.  While it is more than normal to want to stand and walk. The caregiver being afraid the elder will fall if walking unattended, will often standing up to be a dementia behavior.

Just standing up, might mean the elder needs a meaningful activity and she is bored. It could be that the elder wants to get away from something such as; too much activity, too much talk, too much stimulation. It could be that all of a sudden the elder realizes she is hungry or thirsty, and just stands up to get something for herself. Or what is frequently true in Mary’s case, she just has to go to the bathroom.

Rose was over 100, and really looked good for her age. She was cared for by a live-in caregiver, and Rose always looked company ready. But once ready in the morning, Rose was seated on the couch in the TV room. The caregiver enjoyed spending her day watching daytime dramas and game shows.

Rose had vision and hearing problems, and couldn’t follow these shows. Rose wasn’t even a fan of such programming, she was too polite to say she didn’t like the caregiver’s programs.  So Rose would often just stand up to go do something else. The day was spent with Rose standing and the caregiver telling her to sit down.

For a behavior to be a dementia behavior, the question to ask is, is this activity trying to tell me something? Is there a need that is not being met? Is the elder trying to fulfill an emotional need? Is the elder trying to fulfill a physical need? What is being sought? And in the case of Rose, is the elder trying to get away from something?

Whatever the dementia behavior is, first stop and think of that question, would this be normal for a 20 year old?

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing