How To Help Your Patient And Their Family Deal With Alzheimer’s Disease
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Pegasus skilled in-home caregivers in Valencia often assist cognitively-impaired individuals. Their care includes helping the patient and their family deal with Alzheimer’s Disease. Career home health care nurses understand the changes the condition makes in their patients.
Alzheimer’s Disease is only one of several conditions that result in loss of cognitive ability or dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of cognitive loss, and it affects millions of Americans. The disease destroys the brain cells that govern language, memory, and thought.
Recognizing Risk Factors
Preclinical Alzheimer’s starts years before any symptoms are noticed. Researchers are uncovering biomarkers during the preclinical period that can help with early diagnosis. Although there is not yet a cure, early treatment can help slow the progression of impairment.
You may have symptomless patients who are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Some risk factors can be reduced by lifestyle changes. These include quitting smoking, getting enough exercise, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and losing weight if obese.
Factors that can’t be changed include age, family history, gender, head injuries, and environment. Advise your at-risk patients to undergo genetic and other testing. Some may wish to participate in clinical trials.
The Stages Of Alzheimer’s Progression
Positive diagnosis often isn’t made until the individual exhibits symptoms. Each patient is different, but they generally progress through the following stages:
- Mild, early stage – noticeable forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating.
- Moderate, middle stage – increasing memory loss and loss of ability to read, write, or keep track of details. Individuals become confused about time and place, and they don’t recognize friends and family members. They experience personality and behavioral changes and start needing assistance with the activities of daily living. This is the longest stage and the time when in-home care often becomes necessary.
- Severe, late stage – often needs 24/7 care. The individual requires help with eating and any physical activity. They may not be able to control their bladder or bowels, and they are unable to express themselves coherently. They are generally unaware of who they are or their surroundings and cannot care for themselves.
Your in-home care focuses on helping the patient and family cope with Alzheimer’s symptoms. However, you need to be aware of corollary issues that may or may not be caused by the disease. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Mental or emotional feelings, such as fear and anxiety. Family caregivers often experience depression and stress.
- Health problems that include other illnesses, pain, or reactions to medication changes. Patients often are restless and unable to sleep well. That can lead to sleep deprivation in family caregivers.
- Other issues include infections, difficulty with constipation, feeling hungry or thirsty, and impaired hearing or vision. Patients often cannot express their needs, especially in the late stages. You will need to teach family caregivers how to interpret signs of distress in their loved one.
Caregivers also need to understand that lots of activity or noise can confuse or distress their loved one. They must also make their home safe for the patient. You may need to use your networking skills to help families find community resources they need for home improvements.
Reducing Caregiver Stress
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is especially stressful for families. Their physical and mental health may suffer. Discuss the symptoms of caregiver stress with them and offer them tips for managing it, including respite care.
Communication, especially in the advanced stages, can be a significant source of caregiver frustration. The following tips can help both you and the family caregiver improve communication with your patient:
- Speak directly to the patient, and avoid leaving them out of the conversation, even if they don’t fully understand what’s being said.
- Listen with patience and maintain eye contact.
- Ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no, or ask the patient to point or gesture to convey their wishes.
- Treat the individual with respect. Avoid talking about them as if they weren’t present.
- Be aware of body language, facial expressions, sounds, and other forms of nonverbal communication.
Explain to family members that their presence can be comforting when there is nothing to say. A warm smile or affectionate touch may be all their loved one needs.
Join The Team That Respects Your Skills
Pegasus professional in-home caregivers in Valencia and our other locations help families keep their loved ones at home. Individuals are treated with dignity and respect for their privacy regardless of their medical needs. Career home health care nurses provide expert assistance that helps patients and their families deal with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. As a nurse-owned and operated business, we listen to your ideas and suggestions. We’re an equal-opportunity employer, and we’re currently hiring professionals dedicated to helping others.