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Posts Tagged “Alzheimer’s Whisperers”

Advancing Through the Stages of Alzheimer’s: Tips to Help Manage the Many Changes

dtages of Alzheimers

Find tips to help with the changes that occur through the stages of Alzheimer’s from the Phoenix senior care experts.

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, families are faced with a number of questions and challenges. How will the disease progress? What changes will I see in my loved one? And how am I going to handle them?

It’s important for family caregivers to equip themselves with as much information as possible about the disease, and this includes creating a plan that is proactive enough to address the current needs, while preparing for those yet to come. While each person experiences the stages of Alzheimer’s uniquely, there are some commonalities to keep an eye out for, particularly as it relates to changes in the person’s personality, mood, and the behaviors that stem from those changes:

  • Increased agitation, anxiety, and irritability
  • Loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Pacing and wandering
  • Physical and/or verbal aggressiveness
  • Difficulty understanding the world around them
  • Poor hygiene habits
  • Problems with falling or staying asleep, and differing sleep patterns
  • Physical challenges such as problems with vision and/or hearing
  • And many others

These effects may also come and go as the person progresses from one stage to the next, and new challenges then become apparent. And understandably, trying to help someone who’s experiencing such a wide array of emotions and behaviors can quickly become overwhelming for family caregivers.

Try these tips to bring comfort to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, from the Phoenix senior care experts at Nightingale Homecare:

  • Minimize distractions. Often, confusion and frustration are enhanced for someone with dementia when there’s an overload sensory stimulation, such as the TV or radio playing while others in the room are talking.
  • As much as possible, stick to a daily, predictable routine.
  • Avoid open-ended questions, and instead provide choices; for instance, “Would you like chicken or fish for dinner?” is often more effective than, “What would you like for dinner?”
  • Never correct or argue with the individual.
  • Use statements that reflect the person’s feelings rather than the behaviors that have manifested from those feelings: “It looks like you’re feeling angry today,” rather than, “Why are you banging your fist on the table?”

While it’s natural for family caregivers to feel upset or frustrated themselves when a loved one’s feelings are elevated and behaviors are difficult to handle, it’s also vitally important to maintain a sense of calm, even in the face of distress. The senior will pick up on your agitation, often leading to escalated behaviors. Take a step back, breathe deeply, and count to ten before responding to the senior’s needs.

At Nightingale Homecare, our specialized Connections dementia care program helps those with Alzheimer’s by utilizing a unique, creative, and compassionate approach through qualified Alzheimer’s Whisperers® who are extensively trained in effectively managing the difficult behaviors that often accompany dementia.

We begin by providing an in-depth evaluation, and then create a customized strategic plan to fully meet the person’s needs while empowering him or her to maintain the highest level of functionality at all times.

Partnering with the professional Alzheimer’s care team at Nightingale Homecare helps not just the person with dementia, but his or her family caregivers as well, providing the opportunity for the respite required to maintain a healthy life balance. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!

Top Tips for Managing Common Challenging Alzheimer’s Behaviors

Alzheimers CareAlzheimer’s disease is an ever-evolving condition; just when you’ve figured out how to best manage one symptom or behavioral issue, another springs up to take its place! While it’s certainly challenging, it’s also very rewarding to provide care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, and the dementia care experts at Nightingale Homecare have some tips to help.

Regardless of what the behavior is – wandering, agitation, sleeping or eating difficulties, just to name a few – the best way to help your loved one is by looking deeper into the situation, below the surface symptom to the underlying reason for it. Take a deep breath, and a few minutes to explore the answers to these questions:

  • What patterns can you piece together? Is the behavior occurring at the same time each day? Does it emerge around a particular activity, such as bathing or bedtime? Could there be a seasonal connection, such as during the winter months when days are shorter?
  • What clues in the environment could be triggering the behavior? Is there heightened noise/activity level? Too many or too few people? A difference in temperature? Could other sensory input, such as bright lights or strong smells, be contributing to the issue?
  • Are there any unmet needs? Is the person hungry, thirsty, or overly tired? Is there any unaddressed pain? Might the person need to use the restroom? Or has he/she been in one position too long and need some exercise?

Once you’ve compiled notes on the “why” behind your loved one’s behavioral issue, and ensured that there aren’t any underlying medical conditions that require attention, there are a number of ways to help the senior while deescalating the behavior – and oftentimes, creativity can be your best friend. Think outside of the box; you know your loved one, and you know what has worked in the past as well as what definitely did NOT work. Keep the following in mind:

  • Remain calm. It can be difficult to avoid getting caught up in the emotional momentum as your loved one’s behaviors accelerate, but it’s vitally important to maintain a sense of peace. The older adult will pick up on your mood and often respond accordingly.
  • Keep a basket of “favorites” on hand. A favorite book or picture album, hobby or interest, beloved music, flowers, even a particular scent, such as a lavender or vanilla candle, can provide a needed distraction.
  • Change locations. Take a walk outside and point out the interesting pattern on a tree, a kitten in the neighbor’s yard, children playing at the park. Even moving into a different room can often make a difference.

Perhaps most importantly, validate your loved one’s feelings. It’s understandable – and ok – to feel whatever he or she is feeling. Sometimes, just knowing we are heard and understood helps tremendously.

Nightingale Homecare’s specially trained Scottsdale Alzheimer’s care team is on hand to provide more tips and assistance with our Connections dementia care program. Certified as Alzheimer’s Whisperers®, we offer a unique approach to gentle, patient assistance in managing even the most difficult aspects of Alzheimer’s care. Contact us at (602)504-1555 to learn more or to schedule a free in-home assessment.

Moving Forward After an Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis

Alzheimer's Disease“The diagnosis is: Alzheimer’s disease.” What difficult words those are to hear! Suddenly, the world as we know it seems to come to a standstill, while at the same time, our minds begin to swirl with the many questions and concerns that are raised. What kinds of changes should we expect? How will I continue to provide care for my loved one? What happens next?

The Alzheimer’s disease specialists at Nightingale Homecare want you to know you’re not alone, by any means. As many as 137 million adults in America either have Alzheimer’s themselves or a family member who’s been diagnosed; and more than 15 million of them are being cared for by a loved one.

It goes without saying that putting together a good caregiver support system is a crucial first step. Other top priorities include the following:

  • Meet with the person’s physician to go over medication and treatment options.
  • Find an elder care attorney who can make sure all financial and legal affairs are in order – including designation of a power of attorney as well as a point of contact for Social Security.
  • If the senior is a veteran and has not already done so, apply for VA Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits.
  • Set yourself or another trusted person up as co-signer/co-owner on bank accounts.

Most importantly, sit down with your loved one post-diagnosis, along with any other family members, close friends, and perhaps clergy. Talk honestly and openly about your loved one’s current care needs and those projected for the future, taking into consideration any of his or her wishes and addressing any concerns.

Keep in mind that those with Alzheimer’s disease, in the later stages especially, require close supervision in order to remain safe, and without specialized Alzheimer’s disease training, it can be extremely challenging for families to provide the level of care needed to optimize quality of life and wellbeing, as well as to prevent danger or harm to the senior.

At Nightingale Homecare of Phoenix, we partner with families to provide professional Alzheimer’s disease care at home through our Connections Dementia Care Program. Our caregivers are certified as Alzheimer’s Whisperers®, with extensive training in compassionate, patient, creative care, combined with physical, occupational and speech therapy as needed – resulting in the highest possible level of functioning and quality of life for the person with Alzheimer’s, and peace of mind for his or her loved ones.

If your loved one has been given an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, call us at 602-504-1555. We have resources to share, and can schedule a free in-home consultation to talk with you further about how we can help. Your loved one is in good hands with Nightingale Homecare!

Tips to Overcome the Repetitive Behavior of Alzheimer’s Disease

Overcome the Repetitive Behavior of Alzheimer’s DiseaseFolding a big pile of laundry, sorting buttons, snapping beans for soup: those repetitive but necessary activities can tend to become mind-numbing and perhaps even irritating for most of us. But for those with Alzheimer’s, there’s great comfort to be gained in familiar, repetitive activities, and after completing an exhausting task, they may even want to undo the work and start all over again.

The staff members of Nightingale Homecare are qualified as Alzheimer’s Whisperers® and offer care, management and support through our Connections Program. Our caregivers, nurses, therapists, social workers and managers have all been trained in a unique approach by Dr. Verna Benner-Carson, a national expert in dementia care. This training has led to highly-developed expertise throughout our agency in managing even the most challenging behaviors associated with a dementia diagnosis.

Thank goodness that the experts in Alzheimer’s care and management have developed tools to manage these and other behaviors to help prevent family members from actually going crazy!  Here are some tips from Dr. Benner-Carson and the clinical staff of Nightingale Homecare’s Connections Program.

ASSESS THE REASON
When a patient exhibits repetitive behavior, first look for a reason behind the repetitive behavior. It may occur around certain people or surroundings, or at a certain time of day. This repetition may be a way of the patient trying to communicate something. In this case, focus on the emotion and not the behavior. Don’t think so much about what the person is saying or doing, but how he or she is feeling. Understanding this may provide insight into circumstances that may begin to aide in eliminating the behavior.

STAY CALM AND REASSURING
During periods of repetition, it is normal for loved ones to become frustrated or anxious. Try to remain calm with a gentle voice and gentle touch. It is important not to engage the loved one in an argument over the repetition. Because of the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, many patients are unaware that they’re repeating words or activities.

GIVE THE ANSWER
If it is a repetitive question, give the answer, even if you have to repeat it multiple times. If your loved one has the ability to read, you can write the answer down on paper. You may also be able to create a photo collage around the question that helps answer it. This activity can be done with your loved one’s help, creating meaning to the collage by adding photos to clarify the question. This is especially helpful for loved ones who have lost the ability to read. You can also use a calendar for recurring events your loved one has questions about, and refer him or her to the calendar. Place the memory aide in a prominent location, then refer your loved one to the note/calendar or collage when the question is raised again. Another great way to give the answer is to make up a song in a familiar tune that your loved one knows well, and in the song, provide the question and the answer!

TURN IT POSITIVE AND PRODUCTIVE
If the person is running her hands across a chair or table, give her a rag and praise her for the good work at shining the furniture. Sometimes, repetition evolves because of just plain boredom. This is easily resolved with activity. Give her something to do: sort coins, play with a pet, go for a walk, enjoy a snack, sweep the floor, fold laundry, play music and dance!

For more tips on managing the challenging behaviors of Alzheimer’s, or for some respite care from our highly trained and experienced dementia care staff, contact us any time at 602-504-1555.

Could It Be Alzheimer’s? Check Out These Red Flags to Find Out.

Could It Be Alzheimer’s? Although not a normal part of aging, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and more likely than not, your life has been – or will be – touched in some way by someone with the disease. Understanding the signs, symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s can equip those providing care with the ability to prepare and plan for what’s occurring now for their loved one, and for what lies ahead.

After decades of study and research, we understand there are specific stages that patients experience in their struggle with this devastating disease. Dr. Verna Benner Carson and Catherine Vanderhorst of C&V Senior Care have outlined these stages listed below with a timespan most likely predicted for the process:

FIRST STAGE:
(Spanning 2-4 years leading up to and including diagnosis; cognitive level 11 years old, declining to 5 years old)

  • Forgetfulness/short-term memory loss
  • Impairment in judgment/making bad decisions
  • Difficulty with familiar tasks such as cooking, balancing the checkbook, paying bills
  • Difficulty finding specific words
  • Lack of spontaneity
  • Lessening of initiative
  • Disorientation of time and place
  • Social withdrawal or depression
  • Mood/personality changes

SECOND STAGE:
(Spanning: 2-10 years after diagnosis, the longest stage; cognitive level 4 years old, declining to 2 years old)

  • Problems recognizing close friends or family
  • Problems organizing thoughts, thinking logically
  • Repetitive statements and/or movements
  • Increasing disorientation, forgetfulness
  • Can’t find right words; makes up stories to fill in blanks
  • Problems with reading, writing and numbers
  • May be suspicious, irritable, fidgety, teary or silly
  • Loss of impulse control
  • May have trouble dressing and may not want to bathe
  • May see or hear things that are not there
  • Restlessness, especially in late afternoon and at night
  • Wandering
  • Needs full-time supervision

THIRD (Final) STAGE:
(Spanning 1-3 years; cognitive level 18 months, declining to newborn)

  • Complete dependence
  • Loses the ability to communicate verbally
  • May put everything in mouth or touch everything
  • Can’t control bladder and bowel
  • Increasing need to sleep
  • May have difficulty swallowing
  • Loses the ability to walk and becomes bedridden

Understanding and preparing for the stages of Alzheimer’s with an open conversation involving supportive family and friends, including your loved one, when appropriate, opens the discussion for long-term support, life and care planning with improved quality of life for all involved.

You can rely on Nightingale Homecare as your expert support staff during your loved one’s diagnosis, care and progression. Our clients and families experience success in living with Alzheimer’s and dementia! Call us any time at 602-504-1555 or contact us online to learn how our specialized Alzheimer’s Whisperer® services, provided by our specially trained, compassionate and patient Phoenix home care team, can maximize your senior loved one’s health, wellbeing and comfort.