People with dementia or memory loss often display debilitating symptoms, and unfortunately, there is no cure.
Those with dementia disease and memory problems eventually need round-the-clock care, which can put stress on their caregiver. However, if the caregiver learns to avoid the common triggers that lead to frustration and anger in those with dementia and memory loss, they increase their chances of reducing episodes in which their dementia or Alzheimer’s patient becomes upset.
In this article, we will cover what dementia disease is and how to provide individualized care with patients who suffer from the stages of dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia typically occurs in older adults due to the normal aging process, head injury, damage to nerve cells, high blood pressure, a stroke, high cholesterol, loss of blood flow to the brain, or tumor, among other risk factors. Dementia is a group of symptoms caused by brain disease or damaged brain cells or tissue and results in cognitive impairment and long-term memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and the names are often used interchangeably. Dementia is worse than short-term memory loss or age-related memory loss for the brain since many types of dementia are permanent and only worsen with time.
Other forms of dementia and cognitive decline can include Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s dementia, Pick’s disease, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, or vascular dementia. Dementia or Alzheimer’s patient symptoms include difficulty with memory, reasoning, forgetfulness, and other cognitive functioning.
Some common signs and symptoms of dementia disease and memory loss are:
- Memory Lapses
- Forgetfulness and trouble remembering daily activities
- Have difficulty with verbal communication
- Difficulty completing complex cognitive functions
- Trouble making meals or cleaning their living spaces
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Inability to problem solve
- Disorganization, inability to plan
- A decline in visual perception
- Poor motor functioning/coordination
Dementia Care and Dealing with Dementia
Care of those affected by dementia disease or stages of memory loss can be time-consuming and expensive. In the early stage of dementia, Alzheimer’s caregivers are often able to care for the person with a diagnosis of dementia at home.
Care of those affected by dementia disease or stages of memory loss can be time-consuming and expensive. In the early stage of dementia, Alzheimer’s care may be able to be administered at home.
However, as the cognitive function declines and any dementia symptom worsens, home modifications may become necessary to help keep the dementia patient or Alzheimer’s patient safe. For instance, automatic locks on doors should be removed to prevent loved ones with signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia disease from getting locked outside of the residence. However, some locks might be necessary to keep residents with dementia from wandering off the premises without the caregiver’s knowledge. Sharp and dangerous objects should be kept out of easy reach and, if possible, locked away in cabinets or drawers to keep the dementia patient or Alzheimer’s patient from becoming a risk or harming themselves or others.
As the mild cognitive impairment worsens into mid-stage dementia or a later dementia stage, the person will require round-the-clock care from professionals. This usually involves family members hiring an in-home care nurse or admitting the loved one into a memory care facility that provides long-term care and a network of doctors and behavioral specialists. Once it progresses to symptoms of severe dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the patient may not recognize loved ones or be able to follow conversations.
Memory care facilities provide the following services to assist patients with severe loss of cognitive functions:
- Assistance with taking medications
- Transportation to doctor’s appointments
- Assistance with bathing, dressing and using the toilet
- Cognitive therapy
As a person’s cognitive decline progresses from the early stages of dementia to late-stage dementia, walking, eating, and performing activities of daily living will be a constant struggle, and such activities will eventually become impossible. Treatment to assist with any physical activity will be required for end of life care of the memory loss patient to help with the patient’s health and well-being.
Family members of dementia disease patients are often the first to observe changes in that person’s behavior and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia beginning to appear.
Early signs and symptoms of dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease typically include the following:
- Mood swings
- Lack of an ability to control emotions
- Anxious behavior/anxiety
- Cognitive impairment
- Memory loss and forgetfulness
- A decline in problem-solving skills
The above problems typically get worse over time, though drugs, medications, or therapy can improve some challenging behavior.
Triggers That Can Upset Seniors with Dementia
A trigger is something that may cause a person in various stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to become frustrated and exhibit depression or other behavioral symptoms. Triggers can be placed in different categories, such as environmental or medical.
Environmental triggers are those caused by a person’s environment. For instance, those with dementia and memory loss are often bothered by changes in their surroundings, such as when objects are moved to different parts of a room. Some people with dementia or cognitive problems do not adjust well to new caregivers. Overstimulation caused by loud noises or bustling activity can cause confusion and agitation for those with a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Other triggers might involve the following:
- Bright lighting
- Lack of a daily routine
- Background noise
- Temperature (cold or hot)
To avoid triggering a senior with dementia disease keep their living space at normal room temperature (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Do not allow the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to sit in isolation or be suddenly flooded with activity, such as loud noises or people running or walking quickly. Speak to him or her in a calm voice and smile. Dress the senior with memory loss and dementia in clothes that are not too tight or constricting and shoes that fit appropriately. Eliminate clutter in the living space, especially in walkways, to improve their quality of life. Cluttered walkways can cause falls or frustration caused by stumbles for those suffering from stages of dementia.
Medical triggers most often include the side effects of medications. For instance, the pain of headaches or bruises might irritate the memory loss patient, which can lead to mood swings, aggressive outbursts, and other potentially difficult behavior. Serious side effects from medication should be treated by medical personnel.
When Should Someone with Dementia Go Into a Care Home?
Care nursing homes are expensive, and government programs like Medicaid do not usually pay a patient’s entire dementia or Alzheimer’s disease treatment bill. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease care homes can be even more expensive than regular nursing homes. However, such Alzheimer’s and dementia care homes can often provide medical services that memory loss patients under family care may not have access to.
A person in the moderate or advanced stage of dementia is typically a prime candidate for a care home. However, some families make the decision much sooner due to the family’s inability to cope with caring for their loved one and their mental health treatment. A care network of medical doctors, behavioral specialists, and licensed nurses can help manage dementia and memory loss, but there is no preventing memory loss once it has set in.
Enrolling the person suffering from cognitive decline in a care nursing home is often the best choice once the person living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease becomes combative or a danger to himself or others. Therapists and other professionals best handle aggression, paranoia, and intense anger exhibited in those with dementia-like symptoms or Alzheimer’s disease. Many assisted care living facilities also provide family support and counseling for loved ones who suffer from caregiver burnout and grief. The grieving process often begins before a person dies. Some family members may grieve as the dementia patient enters an assisted living facility or memory care residence or begins to require hospice care.
How to Get Respite Care
Hospitals and social workers are among the best professionals to consult regarding respite care for those suffering from memory impairment, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease. Respite services may even be offered at a reduced cost at local community centers and provide dementia or Alzheimer’s disease caregivers.
Assisted living facilities, community centers, and adult day care providers sometimes offer group respite for those suffering from impairment of memory and aging, or Alzheimer’s and dementia. Group services allow dementia residents to interact with other memory loss residents. Social activities involving music and art are monitored by trained staff at these senior living facilities.
Before deciding on which respite care to enroll your loved one in, visit multiple senior care facilities and inquire about the costs of care for dementia disease patients. Figure out how much of those fees would be covered by long-term care insurance. It is also essential to make sure the long-term care facility has insurance and is staffed by people certified or formally trained.
How to Pay for Dementia Care
Health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid do not typically pay all health care costs related to dementia or memory loss. Paying for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease care often involves using money from a variety of sources. Government resources, such as disability insurance, can be combined with Medicaid insurance to cover some costs for Alzheimer’s dementia care. People who have private insurance and employer-paid insurance can use benefits from these sources to help pay their bills.
One little-known source of money to pay for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease care is a local community agency. Such agencies are generally non-profits that can provide some services at free and reduced costs. To get a listing of such continuum of care services in your area, contact a local hospital or social caseworker to inquire.