EARLY STAGE DEMENTIA – SYMPTOMS OF EARLY CONFUSION

Harry has currently un-diagnosed early stage dementia. How can he be so happy and content, seemingly unfazed by his confusion. All due to his wife Ann’s attention.

Harry’s wife of over 45 years was at his side while he greeted friends outside of church. Harry loves to talk and has many friends. These friends don’t seem to notice that Harry is having memory retrieval problems.  And that is all due to the wife at his side who is seamlessly providing words and cues to Harry. Harry never seems to be stumbling in his conversation or  searching for words. Ann knows Harry so well that she just fills in for him with the right word at the right time and he accepts her help.

At this point in time Harry might not even be aware of his memory loss, his wife makes no effort to point it out to him. Harry drives the couple around but you know it is Ann who is navigating because Harry would be disoriented without her.

This partner in life, is now the decision maker, for today deciding where the couple will go for lunch. Because of their warm trusting relationship, Harry trusts Ann to now manage their finances.  When shopping he might just joke that the “little lady takes care of all of those money things.” This saves Harry the stress of trying to pay bills, balance the checkbook, and make poor financial decisions, all signs of early stage dementia.

Emotional outbursts and anger directed at others and situations come from anger at oneself. The person who has early stage dementia and rejects any help or assistance from others may be a risk to himself and others. The inability to change a bad behavior is a symptom of early stage dementia.

For Harry, the frustration that accompanies trying to understand where he is, what is going on, and what might be expected of him is all reduced because of his partner, and yes now his caregiver, Ann.

Virginia Garberding

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing  

HOW TO CHOOSE A NURSING HOME FOR A PERSON WITH DEMENTIA Part I

Choosing a nursing home for the person with dementia, is about where the person is in their disease process, as well as what their finances are and will be. The competition is currently very high for nursing homes caring for persons with Alzheimer’s disease.  This climate has brought forward many, very innovative programs. Programs that include plants, animals, special menus and dining options, activity programs for special interests, art, music, and the list goes on.  When a person is in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease, they are more able to make use of special programs. Later in the disease process the person will have less interest or ability to participate in such programs.

Because many of the high end programs are usually found in private pay facilities, when assessing the elder’s finances, it makes good sense to use those resources when the elder can most enjoy them. Knowing that there is a progression to this disease, and that there is a slow decline, helps in planning. In the early stage of the disease, more funds should be available not only for the nursing facility but also for community events.  Going on outings, shopping, to a movie, out to lunch, to the zoo, etc., these opportunities need to be available.

When visiting a nursing home ask to see the activity calendar. Look for not only internal opportunities but for those outside events. Ask how they are funded, does facility have their own van, do nursing assistants accompany the elders as well as activity staff.

I well remember a nursing home that sponsored an outing to the zoo for its patients. The patients who participated were in early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.  Everything was going fine until the first patient went to sit down on a park bench and missed the bench falling to the ground. About 30 minutes later a second patient did the same thing. (both without injury)  The nursing home administrator decided it was time for this group to return to the facility. Thereafter a group never went out without a member of the nursing department, trained in Alzheimer’s care, in attendance.

Ask if there is a special memory loss unit? Is there a director of that unit? Interview the director and inquire not only about their program but also how they assess their patients for activities. The director should use terms like “person centered care” as well as vocalize an interest in your loved one’s history and “favorites.” Favorite foods, beverages, sports, music, any art interests, and more questions that would help the facility to design a program for your loved one.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing

 

EARLY STAGE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AND CAREGIVING

Caregiving for the person in early stage of Alzheimer’s disease, is in some ways very different from the mid-stage and late stage caregiver role.

The early stage caregiver is in many ways a companion. A very alert and involved companion. A person who is proactive in preventing accidents. Looking at the confused person’s environment, while not changing the environment, (which would increase confusion) but modifying as needed for safety. Knowing the confused elder may no longer be that aware of tripping hazards, the danger of walking in busy parking lots, or handling hot food. So many areas in our, day to day lives, where our own personal safety awareness and good judgement keep us safe.

Helping the confused elder with communication difficulties. Giving the person that extra time they now need to get their thoughts in order. Not rushing the person as they are searching for words, and when providing those words, doing it in a way that is supportive not critical.

By offering frequent reminders of where the person is and what is going on. When the person has a concerned puzzled look on her face, the caregiver gently reminds her that she is at the mall, close to her home. Providing information to the date, time of year, temperature and most of all who people are in relation to the confused elder.

Keeping to a routine and familiar places gives the mildly confused person a sense of security. When that is not possible, as in the case of a change in residence. The caregiver needs to use less verbal directions and more walking a person through the new environment. Accessing that body memory through repetition, by doing something over and over, can re-create that routine and familiarity. Routine and familiarity bring comfort.

Taking time, while stepping back and trying to see what might increase confusion, and what the caregiver can provide to decrease that confusion.

The need that remains is always the same throughout the disease process, is for the the caregiver to be so very kind and understanding. Understanding of the struggles the person is facing to still be here. Support to still maintain their independence as much and as long as possible.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing