Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. “Its onset is generally insidious, with gradual deterioration of cognitive function, eventually resulting death. ” (Falvo, D. 2009, pg. 226). Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia among people age 65 and older. “Nearly 70 percentages of all dementias are Alzheimer’s, and over 4. 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s. ”(www. alz. org). This disease is not just a disease that happens to older people, but there is a small percentage that can also affect those in their 30s.
One of the greatest risk factors that increase the cause of Alzheimer’s is family history, age, and genetics. Alzheimer’s develops when genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors work together to cause the disease process to start. “Research shows that Latinos and African Americans in the United States have higher rates of vascular disease; they also may be at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s”. (www. alz. org). If someone in your family has Alzheimer’s like a brother, sister, or parent is more likely to increase their chances of developing the disease.
There are two stages to having the disease which are early onset and late onset. The early onset stage affects a small percentage of people under the age of 65. It can affect people as young as age 35. The early onset stage are usually inherited from a parent or sibling, this means the person has a greater chance of developing the disease if it’s a family history. In the early stage the person tends to deal with forgetfulness, mood swings, difficulty performing daily tasks, and concentration. The late onset stage usually is developed after the age 60.
In the late stage there appears to be no genetic or family history involved. The late stage of the disease is a long progress that could take several years. In the late stage the person tends to experience severe confusion, behavior changes, difficulty eating and swallowing, needs personal care, and loss of awareness. The late stage is also known as the final stage of Alzheimer’s. In this stage the person is approaching the end of life stage. This stage calls for 24 hour care, family planning and decision making, and treatment choices.
Both stages are known to deal with memory loss, confusion, and the person is unable to finish their task they have started. Those dealing with the early stage seem to be more active, than those dealing with the late stage. Physicians have used a number of tools to diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease. A physician uses a detailed patient history, family history and information, physical and neurological exams and lab test, and clinical trials to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. In many cases a mini mental state exam is given to assess the person’s mental function.
The exam is a series of questions that will be scored so the physician can evaluate the person’s state of mind. MRI and Cat Scans are used to determine the shape and volume of the brain tissue. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s as of yet, but there are several different medications that can help reduce the symptoms, and stop the disease from progressing for a limited time. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is very challenging, and calls for a lot of patience. In 2003, I worked as a Certified Nurses Aid for a company named Garden Terrace of Houston.
Garden Terrace is an Alzheimer’s center of excellence that is exclusively designed to accommodate patients with special needs, and those who also suffer from Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders. The center is a long term care facility that offers assist living, independent living, and a special Alzheimer’s facility. Garden Terrace offers many different programs for their patients like rehabilitation, respite care, Alzheimer’s support groups for the patients and their families, recreational and social activities, and social services.
At Garden Terrace the patients received 24 hours of on call care, a safe and supportive environment, and a family orient facility. While caring for patients with Alzheimer’s the first thing I learned was that each patient experiences Alzheimer’s differently. Each day was a new experience for me, and when caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s there’s no one way to care for them. As a caregiver it is important to find effective and simple solutions that work for you. The facility had five units that were set up by the stages of the disease.
I was assigned to unit D which was the unit for patient that suffered with moderately severe to very severe stages of Alzheimer’s. I was assigned to six to eight patients each shift. My duties were to provide daily care such as, activities, bathing, grooming, feeding, and transporting patients to and from bed. When caring for patients that are in the moderately or late stage of Alzheimer’s you really have to care for them as if they were a small child. When bathing a patient I learned to have all my products ready and available to make bathing time simpler.
It is very important to make sure the bathroom is warm and that the bathroom is equip with a grab bar it helps if the patient has the urge to hold on, and it prevents fidgeting. It’s also important to use a different washcloth for bathing, and face washing, make sure the water temperature is adjusted correctly, and also make sure the floor is completely dry before the patient steps out of the shower. To prevent slip and falls it is also good to use non slip rugs outside the showers. Some patients were not as mobile and had to have bed baths that required a lot of turning, and lifting.
Helping patients use the restrooms preserves their dignity and helps reduce infections. “Although maintaining continence is the most important of the day by day living activities, it is also the most difficult to achieve. ”(Fuerst, F. 2007, pg. 134). It is very important to take the patient to the restroom at least six to seven times daily (upon rising, after breakfast, before naptime, after lunch, before and after dinner, and bedtime). It is very important to have activity time with the patients.
Plan activities that the person will enjoy like; art work, walking, games, ice cream and snack time, music, and sitting outside. At Garden Terrace the staff designed different activities for the patients on each unit to participate in twice a day. Activity time was a relaxing time, and allowed the patients to interact with staff as well as the other residents. “This will provide social stimulation for the patient and respite for you, the caregiver. Even when Alzheimer’s patients no longer have the cognitive ability to understand your humor, they can still appreciate it. (www. helpguide. org).
It is very important to provide the patient with emotional support and help them become familiar with their surrounding, and daily activities. It is also important to acknowledge the patients behavior changes by responding to them. “Don’t argue or try to change the person’s mind, even if you believe the request is irrational. ”(Fuerst, F. , 2007, pg. 168). Patients dealing with Alzheimer’s can be a danger to themselves. People with Alzheimer’s disease eventually evelop behavioral problems, including wandering, sleeplessness, pacing, aggression, agitation, anger, depression, hallucination, and paranoia.
I have learned the best way to deal with a patient that has behavioral problems is to stay calm, be patient, understanding, and flexible. It is important to not take a patients behavior personally, and remind yourself that it’s the disease, and not the person. Alzheimer’s disease can take an emotional toll on the patient, caregiver, and family members. Family members will have to learn to deal with their love one’s illness, and try to provide as much support as possible.
Alzheimer’s is an intimidating and a hard disease to cope with or to adjust to. The goal is to make your love one comfortable and safe, and maintain the patient’s ability as long as possible. Alzheimer’s patients are exactly like any other patient and they need plenty of care, support, patience, and love from their family and care takers. When dealing with patients or love ones with Alzheimer’s you have to remember that the patient didn’t ask for the illness, and the caregiver has to have patience when caring for the patient on a daily basis.