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Don’t Forget: Memory Loss Causes that Aren’t Alzheimer’s

Phoenix live-in home health care When a senior loved one begins to show signs of memory loss, our first thought might immediately be whether he might be in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. After all, memory loss is one of the hallmark characteristics of the disease, and it’s becoming increasingly prevalent in our society.

Yet there are a number of conditions unrelated to Alzheimer’s that can cause memory loss as well. It’s important to rule out the following with your loved one’s physician when memory loss issues occur, in addition to checking for Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Delirium: The main difference between delirium and dementia is in the onset of symptoms. With delirium, mental changes such as memory loss and confusion, occur suddenly, while in Alzheimer’s, there’s a slow, gradual progression. If delirium is suspected, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Medication Side Effects: Certain medications can produce dementia-mimicking effects, including memory loss. Check with the doctor if your loved one is taking any of the following:
    • Sedatives
    • Anti-anxiety or anti-depressant meds
    • Antihistamines
    • Corticosteroids
    • Narcotics
    • Cardiovascular meds
    • Medications to treat Parkinson’s disease
  • Thyroid Disorder: Either too much or too little production of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) can result in cognitive problems.
  • Deficiency in Vitamin B12: Pernicious anemia, while rare, is caused by low levels of B12. Along with confusion and memory problems, other symptoms include fatigue, a yellow tint to the skin, headaches, numbness, shortness of breath, and difficulties with balance. If the physician determines this to be the problem, B12 injections started early can often reverse the symptoms.
  • Alcoholism: A particular condition in those with an alcohol addiction, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome can lead to confusion and memory deficiencies. Abstaining from alcohol may help to restore mental functionality.

Whatever the cause of your loved one’s memory problems, the Phoenix live-in home health care team at Nightingale Homecare can help. Our Connections Dementia Care Program provides seniors with the expertise of our highly skilled Alzheimer’s Whisperers®, who have been uniquely trained to effectively manage even the most challenging of dementia-related behaviors.

We work hard to ensure that each senior in our care receives the services needed to enable the highest possible level of functionality, dignity, and independence at all times, through a full range of care that can include, as needed, skilled nursing, physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy, companionship and non-medical caregiving, and so much more.

Whether the need is for just a few hours each week of respite care, or full-time, live-in home health care services (or anything in between), families know they can trust Nightingale Homecare for the professional home care services their senior loved ones need to achieve the highest possible quality of life. Serving Phoenix and the surrounding areas, contact us to learn more at (602) 504-1555.

Causes and Calming Techniques for Alzheimer’s Aggression

Phoenix live-in home health care Among the many challenging behaviors the caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients may experience, those of aggression and agitation may be the most upsetting and scary. Although it can be difficult to cope with, it is often helpful for caregivers to understand that the person with Alzheimer’s is not behaving this way on purpose, and that there are ways to help identify the cause and manage these behaviors.

Aggressive and agitated behaviors may exhibit physically or verbally and can come on suddenly, with no obvious reason. Due to the loss of cognitive function, those with dementia are unable to articulate or adequately identify their discomfort or frustration, and instead attempt to communicate with agitation or aggression. Some likely causes of this behavior may be physical discomfort, poor communication, or environmental factors, but whatever the cause, when caregivers are prepared, they can more easily identify the precipitating events, and work towards managing the behavior.

Possible Causes of Aggression

  • Physical discomfort or pain
  • Thirst or hunger
  • Incontinence or soiled underwear
  • Depression or loneliness
  • Too much noise or confusion
  • Inadequate sleep or rest
  • Sudden change in place or routine
  • New or multiple people in the environment
  • Pressure to complete a task
  • Frustration with not remembering
  • Too many questions or instructions aimed at the patient
  • Medication reaction or interaction

Ways to Respond

When you begin to notice signs your loved one is feeling agitated, like pacing, restlessness, sleeplessness or yelling, here are some ways you can respond to the behavior before it escalates:

  • Try to identify the cause; think back to what occurred right before the agitation. Try to rule out pain as the cause as soon as possible.
  • Focus on feelings, not the patient’s words, when you communicate. Look for the feelings behind the words.
  • Reassure the patient while listening and speaking calmly to address concerns and frustrations.
  • Keep a routine as much as possible, while building periods of activities and quiet time into the day.
  • Keep the house filled with familiar objects, pictures and keepsakes which can help the patient to feel secure.
  • Limit clutter, noise and unfamiliar people.
  • Minimize distractions. Assess the patient’s surroundings and adapt them to avoid similar reactions in the future.
  • Slow down your movements and relax around the patient; do not get upset. Be positive and reassuring.
  • Shift the focus to another activity. Try using music, massage or exercise to help soothe the patient.
  • Take a break. If the patient is in a safe place and you are able to walk away and take a deep breath and a moment for yourself, do it.

Physically Violent Behaviors

When you are a caregiver on the receiving end of an outburst or physically aggressive behavior, your safety as well as that of the patients are top priority. When violent aggression is directed at you, keep a safe distance, putting a large piece of furniture between you and the patient. Continue to remain calm and speak in a soft, slow tone, using reassurance. If it is necessary to protect yourself and the patient from hurting himself or herself, or another person, call 911.

If you do call, be sure and notify responders that the person has dementia which causes him or her to act aggressively.
If you are unable to find the cause of agitation, it is occurring more frequently, or you need more solutions for the behaviors, get help from the senior’s physician or health practitioner. A medical exam to discover the reasons behind the agitation and aggression may be in order. Ask the senior’s health practitioner if he or she recommends a medication to prevent or reduce the behavior.

Take Time for You

Being a caregiver for a patient with Alzheimer’s can be challenging in the best of times, but when your loved one has moments of aggressive behavior, it can be highly stressful. In the aftermath of these moments, do not overlook your own health, and the need to retreat, reflect and decompress. Such self-care time will give you a chance to refuel and continue to provide the important work you do for your loved one.

Nightingale Homecare is always on hand to provide trusted and highly specialized care for those with dementia, allowing family members to take a much-needed break. Our Dementia Connections Care Program offers a unique approach to better managing the unique challenges of Alzheimer’s through certified Alzheimer’s Whisperers® who not only work to make life as comfortable as possible for the person with dementia, but provide training to family members so they can apply the same strategies themselves.

Contact Nightingale Homecare, top providers of professional in home care Paradise Valley, AZ seniors need, any time by calling (602) 504-1555 to schedule a free in-home consultation to learn more, or to request additional resources related to effective care for those with dementia.

How to Overcome the Challenges of Bathing with Dementia

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Learn how to overcome the challenges of bathing with dementia.

One of the more common challenges facing those living with dementia is the issue of bathing and personal care. As the top providers of senior home care Phoenix families need, our dementia caregivers are faced with this challenge on a daily basis. Fortunately, there are tactics you can employ that will turn bathing into a less challenging experience for you, and a more comfortable one for your elder loved one.

Bathing is an intimate experience; the person with dementia may experience it as threatening, embarrassing, or painful, and may exhibit behaviors to express those feelings, such as resisting, screaming, and even hitting. The behaviors occur because the person does not clearly understand the purpose of bathing and may react to unpleasant aspects such as lack of modesty, feeling cold or experiencing discomfort.

Resistance to bathing begins in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease, when the person has the cognitive capacity of about three years of age. This is important to remember when the person gets upset with bathing. Ask yourself: would a three-year-old get upset with the manner in which I am bathing this person with Alzheimer’s disease? If the answer is yes, then you need to find another strategy!

Effective Dementia Bathing Tips:

  • Do everything you can in advance to make the process easier, such as:
    • Increase the temperature of the room
    • Reduce overhead lighting
    • Make sure bath towels, and if possible, a terry cloth robe are nearby
    • Provide familiar soap (the type and brand the patient has used in the past)
    • Test the temperature of the water
  • Help the person feel in control. Allow the person to decide if he or she prefers a bath vs. a shower, and at what time of day the bath is preferred.
  • Create a safe and pleasing atmosphere. Provide non-slip adhesives on the floor surface and grab bars in the bathtub to prevent falls and provide security. Provide a pleasant, clean aroma and indirect lighting.
  • Respect the person’s dignity. Allow the person to hold a towel in front of the body, both in and out of the shower if desired. This may ease anxiety.
  • Don’t worry about the frequency of bathing. It may not be necessary to bathe every day. Sponge baths can be effective between showers and baths.
  • Be gentle. The person’s skin may be very sensitive, so avoid scrubbing and pat skin dry instead of rubbing.
  • Be flexible. The person may experience the most difficulty when attempting to shower or shampoo the hair. If this is the case, avoid spraying water on the person’s head; use a washcloth to soap and rinse hair, reducing the amount of water on the person’s face.

For more help in easing the challenges of bathing for your loved one with dementia, call on the expert in-home care team at Nightingale Homecare. Our specialized dementia care program, Connections, provides compassionate and creative solutions for some of the more difficult aspects of dementia, including personal hygiene, and we are always available to assist family caregivers to ensure their loved ones receive the highest possible quality care at all times. Call us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more.

The Six Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention

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Learn key factors to minimize the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease has truly become an epidemic among seniors, with an estimated 5 million diagnoses currently, and that number expected to soar to 14 million by the year 2060. As researchers scramble for a cure or at least an effective treatment option to slow the progression of the disease, there are steps that we can all take to reduce our risk of developing the disease. Known as the six pillars of Alzheimer’s prevention, these steps include:

  1. Physical activity. Regular, ongoing exercise is beneficial to all of us in a variety of ways, and boosting our defense against Alzheimer’s disease is now another benefit to add to the list. Studies show that remaining physically active can reduce our risk of dementia by as much as 50%. The key is in exercising at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity level, with a combination of strength and cardio activities as well as exercises to improve balance and coordination.
  2. Socialization. Isolation is, unfortunately, often a concern among the elderly. Maintaining social connections can be difficult for older adults who no longer drive or who are experiencing health concerns. Several suggestions for boosting socialization include becoming involved in the local senior center, making a point to visit regularly with neighbors, and volunteering in the community. The caregivers at Nightingale Home Care can help by providing accompanied transportation to outings, classes, activities, and more, as well as serve as a friendly companion to stave off loneliness.
  3. Healthy diet. Maintaining a diet low in sugar, trans fat, and refined carbs, and high in fresh fruits, vegetables and foods containing omega-3 fats (such as salmon and tuna) gives your body the defenses it needs to help prevent the inflammation and insulin resistance that can damage brain cells.
  4. Brain boosters. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of memory games in preventing dementia, but strengthening the brain through learning is shown in some research to have long-lasting effects on cognitive functioning. Any kind of new learning can help: a new language, playing an instrument, even trying to do everyday activities with your non-dominant hand.
  5. Sleep. Recently, sleeping difficulties in seniors have been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s. Strive for 8 hours of sleep per night, by creating a soothing bedtime ritual, limiting caffeine and heavy meals later in the day, and avoiding napping.
  6. Calming activities. Ongoing stress has been shown to impact the area of the brain responsible for memory. Reduce stress through incorporating calming activities into each day: meditation, prayer, deep breathing, yoga, a warm bath, soft music, a good book.

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the Phoenix home care experts at Nightingale Home Care are on hand to help with our specialized Connections dementia care program. Our Alzheimer’s care specialists are highly trained and skilled in effective management of the disease, and can create an individualized plan of care to ensure that those with dementia are able to live life to their fullest potential.

Contact us for additional Alzheimer’s care tips and resources, or to schedule a free in-home assessment to learn more by calling (602) 504-1555, or complete our simple online contact form to let us know how we can help, and we’ll be in touch with you as soon as possible.

Navigating the Dementia Doctor Visit

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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.

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