Communication and Behaviors of those with Mid Stage Alzheimer’s
An estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2013.*
Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s?
Today, an American develops Alzheimer’s disease every 68 seconds. In 2050, an American will develop the disease every 33 seconds.*
Do you know the symptoms or stages of Alzheimer’s?
In 2012, 15.4 million family and friends provided 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Eighty percent of care provided in the community is provided by unpaid caregivers.*
Do you fall into this category of unpaid caregivers?
Annette Smith of FirstLight HomeCare in Chardon has recently completed quarterly training on the topic of Mid Stage Alzheimer’s Communication and Behaviors. With the number of Alzheimer’s patients increasing and the ongoing findings being released, she and her staff are committed to staying educated so they can offer the very best care to their patients and assist those caregivers who attend to their needs.
Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior and is not a normal part of aging, has been broken down into seven stages. One can be diagnosed with it in the first stage, and yet have no visible symptoms. In time, however, the symptoms become more severe and can result in total inability to care for themselves, control their movements, or even to swallow. The stages and their symptoms can be found online.
Mid stage Alzheimer’s patients, those who fall into the stage 3-4 range, begin to experience cognitive issues such as not quite knowing everybody anymore; not recognizing their current home and looking for their childhood home; remembering things that happened in early life but not currently. They may lose or misplace a valuable object or have increasing trouble with planning or organizing.
Do they understand they have Alzheimer’s? “Not always,” shares Annette. “After a while, the understanding of having a disease does start to fade. And as their cognitive abilities start to decline more, you can’t tell them they have it – they won’t understand.”
Communication becomes more and more difficult and frustration is very common, as you can imagine. “They may know what they want to say, but can’t say it. Those connections in the brain that tell your mouth to say it just aren’t there anymore,” adds Annette.
Often, with the loss of one cognitive ability, another becomes heightened such as hearing. “Keeping the patient in a quieter environment is very helpful. Otherwise they cannot process all that is going on around them and they may start to act out because they cannot handle all that activity,” she explains.
Frustration and disorientation increase too for those with mid stage Alzheimer’s. They may start to lose that ability to walk up steps or they may notice a change in flooring. Annette shared one particularly interesting change that can occur. “Some will not walk onto a tile area after being on a carpeted area. The brain cannot make that transition anymore. A simple test is to place a black piece of fabric in front of a doorway. An Alzheimer’s patient will think it is a hole and won’t go there.” That would certainly be a cause for fear from their perspective. “Trying to recognize in clients the fear or anxiety, and then doing things to calm them and redirect them to keep them in a good happy place, is one of the things our staff frequently engages in.”
If you are a caregiver, which can be so very draining, remember these things:
1. Show empathy
2. Try to put your feelings aside and put yourself in their shoes to settle frustration
3. Distract them.
Distraction methods are key to quelling frustrations and fears. Annette shares some great ideas. “Record memories early on, as soon as you receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Find things that made them happy in the past and use these to distract them when they are feeling anxious, afraid, frustrated – a smell they like (cookies baking, meatloaf cooking); music from an era or their wedding; or pull out a photo album. Start to recreate those moments that will take that frustration away.”
What can FirstLight do to help?
As a primary caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient, your own life may become consumed by the one who has the disease. “When your own quality of life is impaired or when they start to wander is the time to call for help,” says Annette, “and most do. The caregiver already knows they need or want help by the time they call us.” FirstLight will come to your home and do a free assessment. It’s one of their primary services – to give the main caregiver a break and let them go out while FirstLight engages the loved one in new and enjoyable redirection activities. “We use numerous activities to tire the patient out a little more and allow them to sleep better at night, which allows the caregiver to sleep too.”
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But there is a way to alleviate some of the frustration that both the patient and the caregiver feel. Annette and her compassionate staff at FirstLight Home Care can help return some normalcy and joy back into these relationships, creating a healthier happier life for everyone involved.
In September, a fundraiser walk at Holden Arboretum is being planned. Contact Annette for more information.
14865 Crimson King Trail
Chardon, OH – 44024