Is it Alzheimer’s? Is it Dementia?
When it comes to catch-all phrases, ‘Alzheimer’s’ and ‘dementia’ may be two of the most common. The terms are used interchangeably to describe anything resembling memory loss or cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are in fact not the same thing. Rather than a specific disease, ‘dementia’ is an umbrella term referring to a decline in cognitive abilities (memory, reasoning, and other thinking skills) severe enough to impair daily life and independent function. Under the dementia umbrella, there are many different diseases, Alzheimer’s being the most prevalent. Whether Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, the diagnosis poses a significant challenge to the individual and their family. Griswold NoVA West is here to help.
Caregiving for the Long Term
Caring for someone with dementia can be emotionally and physically draining. As with most progressive diseases, symptoms of physical and cognitive decline will become more severe over time, requiring increased amounts of caregiving and attention from family members. It is not unusual for a family member or friend to assume a caregiver role out of love and commitment, and then find that they are ill-prepared for what this inevitably entails. The focus on another’s needs is to be commended but can often overshadow the emotional, mental, and physical health of the person providing the care.
Home care plays a significant role in helping those with dementia remain at home for as long as possible. The rate at which dementia symptoms worsen varies from person to person but the right support can allow them to safely remain in their familiar home environment for many years. The dementia care training that our caregivers receive prepares them to handle the unusual behaviors and tricky situations that often arise. They are fully prepared to:
- Reintroduce themselves every time they arrive
- Recognize that their client’s reality is just that – their reality – and should never be challenged
- Stimulate short-term memory through cognitive activities
- Validate their client’s feelings
- Encourage and help them to reminisce about happy memories
- Provide choices
- Reduce distractions and keep things simple
- Avoid using words that threaten their sense of authority or independence
Getting the Care Relationship off to a Good Start
Individuals with dementia can often be resistant to accepting care. Those at the early stage of the disease often become experts in compensating for their cognitive decline so that others will continue to think that “everything’s fine”. Those with more advanced dementia may react negatively when new people are introduced or when their routines are changed. Understanding what may be causing the resistance, and how that can best be addressed, is key to a positive care experience.
At Griswold Home Care, the first step that we take is to learn as much as we can about your loved one. During our initial consultation, we’ll ask about their past and current interests, who and what is important to them, what triggers their anxiety, what usually calms them, words or phrases used for certain tasks and activities, and much more. Sharing this information with the caregiver, before their first meeting with your loved one, paves the way for the relationship to get off to a good start. It may take a few days, sometimes longer, for the client to become comfortable and start to accept this new person but that first meeting can make all the difference.
The Benefit of Routine
Most individuals who suffer from dementia do best in their home environment where everything is familiar, and daily routines can more easily be maintained. The services that we provide to all our clients - with and without dementia- are guided by a personalized care plan. Developed in consultation with the family (andto the extent possible, the client), the care plan is the caregiver’s ‘road map’. Daily activities, chores and personal care tasks are done at consistent times.For those with dementia, this repetition of a set routine can be amazingly helpful in reducing confusion and anxiety. Someone who has watched Jeopardy every night for the past 15 years will feel a sense of normalcy when the program comes on, regardless of whether they can keep up with what’s happening or who’s winning!
With a professional caregiver focused on your loved one’s needs, you can enjoy a well-deserved break and have time to manage the other aspects of your life.