Our Nurses Understand That Memory Loss Does Not Always Mean Alzheimer’s Disease
Pegasus home health care nurses in Calabasas and elsewhere care for individuals with varying degrees of memory loss. Contrary to the general public’s perception, they know that such losses aren’t always due to Alzheimer’s Disease. As part of your career as a nurse, you can help educate individuals and their families.
Some Memory Loss Is Due To Normal Aging
Memory is the ability to recall what an individual has experienced or learned in the past. Some of that ability is lost as the person ages. Often, the loss occurs gradually, and many people unconsciously adjust.
Even after memory loss becomes noticeable, individuals often remember how to do specific tasks. They frequently recall events from the distant past. Most retain generalized knowledge.
As more memory is lost, individuals have trouble learning and recalling new information. Their ability to think or react slows. That’s still generally regarded as part of normal aging.
Impaired Memory Isn’t Normal
Individuals slip into memory impairment when they’re unable to perform the activities of daily living. They may or may not be developing Alzheimer’s or other dementia. This is usually the time when family members seek assistance.
Your role as a home healthcare nurse is critical, especially in evaluating the cause of the impairment. You’re familiar with the differences between Alzheimer’s, other dementias, and memory loss. Care and treatment for the first two are covered in separate articles.
You’ll find tips here to help you discover the other causes of memory loss. You have the advantage of being in the individual’s home rather than in a clinical setting. That means you have quality one-on-one time with the person and their family members.
Memory Loss May Be Reversible
Many factors contribute to memory loss. Try to determine when the individual first noticed they were experiencing more than normal forgetfulness. Then ask them if any of the following happened:
- Were they sick or had an infection?
- Were they diagnosed with a new medical condition?
- Did they start a new medication?
- Were they in an accident or fall that possibly caused a head injury?
- Are they grieving a loss?
- Did they have higher than usual levels of stress or anxiety?
- Were they depressed?
- Did they have surgery, undergo chemotherapy, or other major medical procedures?
- Were they sleep-deprived for more than a night or two?
Determine if they are taking medications either separately or in combination with others that can cause forgetfulness. They may not be taking medications as instructed or accidentally overdosing by adding over-the-counter remedies. Create a checklist of what they are taking and when they should take each.
First-hand answers are the most desirable. However, it’s always a good idea to talk to other family members about their observations.
As you spend time in their home, individuals feel relaxed with you. They’ll tell you things they wouldn’t say to a doctor. You also have time to listen, which is just as important.
As you gain their trust, you can talk to them about issues like alcohol consumption and illicit drug use. They may also be intentionally not using prescribed medications as instructed. They may be trading drugs with friends.
Memory losses due to factors like any of the above are usually short-lived. Memory may return on its own as the causes are eliminated or it may respond to treatment. That’s why it’s so essential to avoid assuming memory loss equals dementia.
Involve Family Members
Sometimes memory loss is permanent, even when not due to Alzheimer’s or dementia. Your goal is to help the individual live independently and safely at home. You can teach them and their family members how to make changes that can help everyone involved.
You may need to administer or monitor medications. You may have to involve other members of your Pegasus team if family members aren’t able to help. Consider things like:
- Consulting with a dietitian if the individual isn’t eating well or with a physical therapist if they need help exercising.
- Encouraging or helping individuals learn a new skill or trying a new activity.
- Establishing a daily routine.
- Increasing the individual’s ability to socialize by providing transportation or arranging get-togethers.
- Involving the person in appropriate activities such as attending church or volunteering.
- Ensuring that the mattress, bedding, or bedroom environment isn’t hampering the individual’s ability to sleep.
- Obtaining treatment for underlying conditions. That includes emotional conditions such as depression and physical conditions such as high blood pressure.
You may have to arrange counseling for the individual and their family members.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our home health care nurses in Calabasas and our other locations strive to improve the quality of life for others. Experienced nurses and new grads choose us as their professional home for rewarding career options.