With more people being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every year, the number of residents of Mission Valley and elsewhere who have questions about this challenging health condition is also growing, including whether palliative care or traditional care works the best.
The team at Accredited Home Care has been working with clients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia for years. We often are able to answer some of the questions ourselves, and we’re also familiar with state and local resources so we’re always happy to refer questioners to the best sources to make sure they get accurate and thorough answers.
Questions can come from everyone: the clients themselves, then their friends or other loved ones, researchers, and even people who just want to know more. In some cases, some of the questions come from caregivers.
Depending on their background, a caregiver may not have any medical or caregiving background at all, such as a close friend or family member who has offered to help out.
Or they have some basic nursing or medical training, such as lifesaving/CPR. They may even have formal nursing training, such as caregivers who may have worked or are working in the past.
But not all medical or nursing training prepares people for the mental and physical demands of someone dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.
As this progressive disease advances and the brain physically deteriorates, people may need more and more assistance. Depending on how long care is being provided, a caregiver may watch a client move from forgetting a few details to needing 24-hour care. Advanced dementia sufferers may not know where they are, or may be distressed and confused, and may be unable to feed or care for themselves or even get out of bed.
Throughout the course of the disease, people will be experiencing a wide range of emotions and feelings, everything from depression to confusion. They may feel anger and sadness and maybe even some fear of what’s happening to them now and what they could experience in the future. They may worry about how people around them are doing, and some of the more advanced cases may worry about their own safety and security (such as the people who wander away.)
Although everyone’s case is slightly different, there are some common questions that caregivers may ask, especially
- How long does it last? Unfortunately, being progressive, Alzheimer’s disease will last until the patient dies. There are some ways that may limit or reduce the progression but it still is ultimately fatal. In some cases, death may be caused by the body simply not wanting to eat. Though research is continuing and advances have been made, no cure or medication to reverse the brain damage has been found.
- Should they remain at home? This is a question that can be discussed by health care providers, family members, and the patient himself or herself if they want to be part of a discussion. Certainly being able to stay in their own environment will be less disruptive to their mental health than moving to a care facility. But family members also may want them to have more monitoring and higher security. In some cases, a family can add safety and security features such as locks. Or a caregiver can prepare the meals and keep them away from areas where they can accidentally hurt themselves.
- What can do I for relief? Because physical, mental, and emotional health of caregivers is also important, many home health organizations also offer respite care, where caregivers can have some time off, whether it’s a few hours or a day, while a qualified caregiver who knows how to work with dementia patients can come to assist.
- Where do I get help? The patient’s health provider may be a good starting place. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association are a great source of support. In addition to being a comprehensive site, it invites people to call, email, or text with questions or assistance. Experts can give tips on everything from creating routines to strategies on dealing with clients who are going through different phases.
A continuous message is that help is out there and caregivers, especially those new to these duties, don’t have to take the whole burden on themselves.
Plenty of resources
This month is a good opportunity to learn more.
September is designated as World Alzheimer’s Month, which offers 30 days of opportunities to find out more about resources in your area and general questions about the disease. Alzheimer’s Disease International first organized the month in 2012 but now works with more than 100 Alzheimer’s organizations around the globe. These groups also encourage local communities to get involved as well by creating their own events and promotions.
One of the highlights every year is World Alzheimer’s Day Sept. 21, a time when it’s especially vital to share correct information.
The organization’s goal is to promote learning as well as dispel misinformation about Alzheimer’s disease since people in some parts of the world aren’t fully convinced it’s an actual disease.
Related goals include raising more money for research and encouraging lawmakers to authorize more funding.