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 

DEMENTIA 101 – DISEASES CAUSING DEMENTIA

Dementia is not a disease, but rather a combination of symptoms that may accompany a disease or physical condition.  These changes or symptoms, begin with memory loss, and slowly progress to the person having difficulty caring for themselves and eventually becoming totally dependent on others. The symptoms must include memory loss and at least one of the following to indicate dementia.

  • Loss of language skills, understanding words, spoken or written as well as the ability to speak coherently.
  • The loss of the ability to recognize objects and eventually people.
  • The loss of the ability to initiate and follow through with motor skills.
  • The loss of reason, judgement, planning and ability to follow through with a plan.

These changes have to be severe enough to interfere with the person’s ability to live independently, to be considered dementia. When the elder suffers only from occasional memory problems, that are not interfering with daily activities, they are considered to have mild cognitive impairment.

Alzheimer’s Disease: is the most common cause of dementia affecting between 50% – 70% of those diagnosed with dementia. By the time a person is 85 years old they will have about a 50% chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

Vascular Dementia: The second leading cause of dementia is experiencing a stroke. This is not a slowly progressing dementia, it progresses as the elder continues to have small strokes causing more damage to the brain.

Lewy Body Dementia:  Named for the round structures, or Lewy bodies found in the brain. This is frequently connected to the person who has, Parkinson’s disease with dementia.

Frontotemporal Dementia: This dementia doesn’t present with memory loss until much later in the disease process. The first signs are personality changes, and lack of empathy for others.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing