Most modern medical or nursing programs include information about dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or various dementias as part of traditional or palliative care. The reason is simple: more and more residents of Coronado and elsewhere are experiencing these conditions or at least trying to become more aware of them.
At Accredited Home Care, we work with thousands of clients in Southern California, and many of them are in different stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Our staff also may sometimes work with the same client for several years so may see how they decline or what steps they take to keep the disease from progressing as quickly.
In some cases, we know that they have this condition, and in others, we may observe symptoms before family members do. Either way, we can be involved in observing and sharing info with the family, any provider, and even the client/patient who might be confused or unsure of what’s happening.
A home health care position can be especially useful for someone who wants to observe and work with people with dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.
LVNs especially might appreciate the opportunity to work directly with people with this condition, rather than learning about it in general in school.
Though it can emotionally difficult to watch people’s mental faculties and then physical faculties decline, being able to provide nursing services to them can be rewarding. Their family, who often is learning about dementia while someone is dealing with it, also will appreciate your expertise and familiarity.
A big part of working with clients with Alzheimer’s disease requires learning about it and also keeping up with current research.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a national non-profit that offers resources about Alzheimer’s and forms of dementia, there are about 5.8 million Americans with different stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This works out to about 1 in 10 people age 65 and older.
Alzheimer’s disease shows up more frequently as people age, although some people may start showing early symptoms in their 50s.
There is currently no cure, although some patients are able to extend the time between the different stages through healthy activities like more exercise, a good diet and intellectual stimulation like learning new tasks like music, language
There is also no firm cause either, although researchers are beginning to look for different causes that can impact how fast or how slow proteins deteriorate in the brain, everything from blood flow to amount of sleep.
The sleep topic is interesting since it’s already common knowledge that a regular amount of sleep helps improve physical and mental performance.
But many seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, sleep less for various reasons. They may wake up early in the morning, and take short naps through the day.
A recent study shows that deep sleep, at least four hours, can activate a process in the brain that flushes out dead proteins and other toxins. If someone sleeps less than this regularly, all the old proteins may not be removed which could potentially accelerate dementia symptoms. It’s still not known, however, if the lack of sleep is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s or not sleeping leads to it.
If you’re a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or similar forms of dementia, encourage them to sleep longer and have more naps.
One of the challenges of the health care industry is staying up to date on procedures and medical knowledge. Although some approaches never change or don’t change much, there are always advances, new procedures, and even new technology.
Alzheimer’s disease is one, where some of the unknowns that were discussed in nursing school now have a little more knowledge with them. Or more unknowns have been found.
For LVNs and other nursing professionals, there are a variety of resources that can help them learn more. This can be for their own sake as well as any questions from clients or family members wondering what’s happening. Though it’s easy enough to send them to a site or to ask their family provider, a nurse can also gain more knowledge for him or herself.
Some resources include:
The Alzheimers Association. At www.alz.org/ you can get all sorts of information about Alzheimer’s disease and various dementias. This includes signs to watch for, information about how it can progress, and what people might be going through or feeling. It also offers information about local resources, everything from support groups to association chapters in your area. The chapters sometimes offer community programs and fund-raisers.
Continuing education. A local college or medical center may offer the occasional seminar about advances in Alzheimer’s disease research. This can bring people up to speed who may have learned the basics year before and also won’t have to spend a lot of time in the classroom.
Medical journals. Some of these may be complex and difficult to explain to clients, but they can provide interesting information about the pathology of Alzheimer’s.
The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners. This organization offers resources for people who work directly with Alzheimer’s patients. It also provides certification for demonstrating knowledge of current terms and behaviors. The NCCDP is inviting the community to mark Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Staff Education Week this month, an occasion to learn more.