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Navigating the Dementia Doctor Visit

dementia care Phoenix

Make doctor visits easier for those with dementia.

Medical appointments, treatments and procedures can be stressful for all of us, but for those with dementia, the associated confusion and cognitive problems can make for an extremely challenging undertaking – both for the senior himself and the family caregiver accompanying him. Lots of questions and concerns may arise, and may continue to rise repeatedly as the senior tries to make sense of why and where you’re taking him.

At Nightingale Homecare, we provide the skilled and compassionate dementia care Phoenix area families trust, and want to help reduce stress and ensure that seniors get the most from their doctor visits. The following tips may help.

Before the Appointment

A little advanced thought and preparation can go a long way towards creating a smoother and easier experience at the doctor’s office. It’s a good idea to write down your questions in advance, rather than trying to remember everything when you arrive. Include in your notes a list of all current medications the senior is taking, both prescriptions and over-the-counter meds, as well as any changes or concerning symptoms you’ve noticed in your loved one. Note as many details as possible, such as dates, times, and frequency of these changes, and include your observations on such intangibles as the person’s quality of life and overall contentedness and wellbeing.

During the Appointment

It’s important to be mindful of the need to maintain respect for the senior at all times, refraining from talking about the person as if he’s not there or talking over him or for him if he’s trying to convey something to the doctor himself. The doctor should confirm with the senior that he’s ok with having you present during the visit. Ensure you fully understand the doctor’s answers to your questions and concerns, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification when unsure about a response you receive. Be sure to take notes during the visit, and ask for a printout summarizing your visit as well.

After the Appointment

Update your records with any prescription, diet or activity changes recommended by the physician, and implement accordingly, continuing to take notes on your loved one’s condition until the next scheduled appointment. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, keep in mind that in order to provide the very best possible care for your senior loved one, you need to take good care of yourself as well. Providing care for a senior loved one with dementia can quickly become overwhelming, and it’s easy to let self-care take a backseat; but serious health risks can arise in caregivers who neglect their own care.

The best solution for both the senior and yourself is partnering with a trusted, experienced dementia care professional, such as those at Nightingale Homecare, who can provide routine respite care services, allowing family caregivers to take much-needed breaks from care while knowing their loved one is in skilled and compassionate hands. As a top provider of the dementia care Phoenix families trust, we can also provide a higher level of assistance, all the way up to and including full-time, live-in care – which is particularly helpful in effectively managing some of the more challenging aspects of dementia care, like sundowning, aggression, wandering, and more.

Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more about our specialized Connections Dementia program or any of our other in-home care solutions for seniors.


Top Phoenix Home Care Agency Shares Tips to Better Manage Wandering in Alzheimer’s

Top Phoenix home care agency

Providing a comfortable and safe home environment for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is key to improving the person’s emotional and physical wellbeing. This goal can be challenging, especially for those families who have a loved one who wanders due to dementia. The Phoenix home care agency team at Nightingale Homecare understands firsthand how difficult it can be to effectively manage behaviors such as wandering, and is here to help!

An individual with dementia is likely to wander at some point during the disease – as many as three out of every four patients, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This is an incredibly stressful behavior for loved ones to deal with because of the safety implications associated with wandering.

The first approach to dealing with wandering is to identify the reason behind the wandering.  There may be a number of causes, including:

  • Medication side effects
  • Stress
  • Confusion related to time
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Inability to recognize familiar people, places and objects
  • Fear arising from the misinterpretation of sights and sounds
  • Desire to fulfill former obligations, such as going to work or looking after a child

There are some things you can do to reduce wandering in your loved one:

  • Encourage movement and exercise. This tends to reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness and can have a dramatic effect on wandering.
  • Involve your loved one in productive daily activities such as folding laundry or preparing dinner. This can keep your loved one occupied and provide opportunity for meaningful tasks.
  • Remind your loved one he is in the right place and reassure him if he articulates feelings that he may be lost, abandoned, or disoriented. This kind of reassurance from a trusted loved one or caregiver can be invaluable in calming your loved one and preventing wandering behavior.

If you continue to notice wandering behaviors, there are some things you can do to protect your loved one:

  • Enroll your loved one in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return program.
  • Notify all your neighbors of your loved one’s condition and keep a list of their names and phone numbers.
  • Keep your home safe and secure by installing deadbolt locks on exterior doors and limiting access to potentially dangerous areas of your home.
  • Be mindful that your loved one may not only wander by foot but also by other modes of transportation, so limit access to cars or other transportation.
  • Be sure and keep a list of emergency phone numbers and addresses of the local police and fire departments, hospitals and poison control as well as the Safe Return help line.

Although it may seem overwhelming to proactively address any potential hazards, in the long run, it’s well worth it to know that your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is safe. And you don’t have to figure it all out alone! The staff of Nightingale Homecare is uniquely qualified to provide Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss care through our Connections program, using the unique approach taught by Dr. Verna Benner-Carson through her “Alzheimer’s Whisperer®” methods. Alzheimer’s Whisperers enter the client’s world and manage the challenging behaviors associated with dementia in a way that is gentle, creative and highly effective. These skills are not only practiced and known by our trained caregivers, but also taught to the families of our dementia clients by the clinical staff of Nightingale Homecare.

Contact the Alzheimer’s care experts at the top Phoenix home care agency, Nightingale Homecare, at (602) 504-1555 for more helpful tips to make life safer and more comfortable for your loved one with dementia, or for professional, compassionate, hands-on assistance with all of his or her care needs.

Don’t Fear, Healthy Brain Tips Are Here

healthy brainThis time of year, there’s plenty of spookiness to startle and sometimes even downright terrify us, but one fear that many of us carry throughout the year is the fear of cognitive decline as we age. While it’s true that dementia and other types of Alzheimer’s disease are more prevalent as we grow older, it’s also true that there are steps we can each take today to maintain a healthy brain and reduce our risk for cognitive decline:

  • Maintain Good Overall Health. A number of health conditions can affect cognitive functioning, but the good news is we have some control over our ability to avoid them, such as following a healthy diet and exercise plan to maintain heart health and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, and getting regular medical checkups to stay in optimal physical health.
  • Stay Safe. Some studies have noted an elevated risk for dementia in those who have suffered moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. Safety measures such as wearing a helmet when bicycling, wearing seatbelts in the car, reducing fall risks through education, and refraining from driving while impaired by alcohol or medications can reduce the risk for brain injury.
  • Be Aware of Medicine Side Effects. As beneficial as medications are, combinations of certain types of drugs can result in brain complications such as memory loss, confusion, delusion, and hallucinations. Review a full list of medications with a doctor experienced in polypharmacy (one who understands the interactions of different medication combinations) to make sure the combinations you or a loved one is taking are safe.
  • Stay Social. Loneliness and social isolation have shown to be connected to a higher incidence of dementia and other cognitive problems. For the elderly, this is especially concerning, as it can become more challenging to leave home due to physical infirmities and/or the inability to drive – but it’s imperative to ensure seniors stay socially active.

Nightingale Homecare, the Arizona home health care experts, are available to help seniors keep a healthy brain, body and mind through our professional in-home care services. Customized to each individual, we can help in a variety of ways:

  • Friendly companionship to keep isolation and loneliness at bay
  • Encouragement and participation in physician-approved exercise programs
  • Fall risk assessments and assistance with ambulation and mobility
  • Help with personal care tasks, such as bathing and dressing
  • Preparation of nutritious meals
  • Medication reminders
  • Transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments, fun outings, and more
  • Plus a full range of skilled nursing care services

For more information about our in-home care for seniors in the Phoenix area, you can reach us any time at (602) 504-1555.

Talking to Your Family About Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer's diseaseA diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease affects more than just the person diagnosed; it impacts the entire network of family, friends, and even the community at large that the senior will be in contact with. Communication is key to helping everyone involved to understand what to expect as the disease progresses. Nightingale Homecare’s Alzheimer’s disease specialists share the following tips to make sure everyone is on board with how to best help a senior with dementia to live life to the fullest possible potential.

  • For Children:
    • Answer their questions honestly and at an age-appropriate level.
    • Make sure they understand that the disease is not a result of anything they or anyone else has done.
    • Allow them plenty of opportunities to spend time with the senior, working on crafts together, listening to music or stories, etc.
    • Let them know it’s ok to feel sad, angry, or confused, and that you’re there to talk with them about their feelings.
  • For Adult Family Members:
    • Provide them with educational information about the disease.
    • Share specific ways that they can help, such as running errands, helping with meals or housework, or spending time with the senior to allow primary family caregivers with a much-needed break.
    • Explain ways to make communicating easier, such as greeting the senior by introducing themselves, making eye contact, and refraining from correcting the senior if he or she is confused.
    • Let them know the times of day that are best for the senior to have visitors, and to anticipate the person may exhibit feelings of frustration, anger or confusion as a normal effect of the disease.
  • For Community Contacts:
    • When visiting a restaurant, doctor’s office, library, or other public facility with the senior, it can be helpful to have cards on hand with a short explanation for his or her behavior. If the senior displays inappropriate behavior, you can quietly hand a card to anyone who might be impacted. The cards can read something as simple as, “Thank you for your patience and understanding with my family member, who has Alzheimer’s disease. The disease sometimes causes him/her to act out in unexpected ways.”

Most importantly, family members providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease need to surround themselves with resources and support to prevent caregiver burnout, a common – and serious – condition that can result when family caregivers become overwhelmed with meeting someone else’s care needs.

At Nightingale Homecare, we partner with families on the journey through Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of aging, providing as much or as little support as needed to ensure that both the senior and his or her family members remain as healthy as possible. Contact our top-rated Alzheimer’s care company in Phoenix at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!


Making Your Home Dementia-Safe

dementiaProviding a comfortable, soothing home environment for those with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is key to their emotional wellbeing, but equally important is ensuring the person will be safe from harm in the home. Changes in the brain from dementia can cause even the most innocuous items, such as dark-colored rugs, to appear ominous, like a hole that could swallow the person up.

Nightingale Homecare can help families rethink the layout of the home from the perspective of someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and make the necessary adjustments for both perceived and real safety threats. For example:

  1. A person with dementia may confuse common objects – such as thinking a sharp knife is actually a comb. It’s important to place all hazardous items out of reach and/or locked away to prevent accidents.
  2. People with dementia are often agitated by intricate patterns, which can give the illusion of unwanted or confusing situations – such as bugs or snakes moving across a patterned carpet, tablecloth or wallpaper. Consider calmer prints or paint colors for the senior’s home.
  3. Interior door locks should be removed or rendered unusable so a person can’t accidentally lock himself into a room.
  4. Determine if any house plants are poisonous, and find them another home safe from pets, children and seniors with cognitive impairments.
  5. As with any older adult, seniors with dementia are at risk from tripping hazards such as cords and other obstacles in walking paths, low furniture, and throw rugs. A full safety assessment should be performed both in and around the home, including ensuring adequate lighting, hand rails, bath/shower safety equipment, etc. are in place.

Although it may seem overwhelming to proactively address any potential hazards, in the long run, it’s well worth it to know that your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is safe. And you don’t have to figure it all out alone! Nightingale Homecare of Scottsdale can partner with you and your family to help in a variety of ways, based on your senior loved one’s individual needs:

  • Perform an in-home assessment to determine the best level of care needed and to address any potential safety issues
  • Provide specialized hands-on care for those with dementia through our Connections dementia care program, with our uniquely certified Alzheimer’s Whisperers®
  • Assist with transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and other outings
  • Run errands such as picking up prescriptions and groceries
  • Help with housework, laundry, meal preparation, pet and plant care, companionship, and so much more

To talk with us one on one about how we can help your loved one live a safer and more fulfilling life at home, contact us at (602) 504-1555. We’ll be happy to answer all of your questions and arrange for a free in-home consultation at your convenience.