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ComfortCare Homes Wichita Blog

“Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s: Physical Comfort”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:27:31 PM
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NOTE: Over the past two decades of caring for people with Alzheimer’s, our family has gained valuable insights into minimizing the effects of the disease in an effort to provide the highest quality of life for those affected. However, every situation is unique. The relevance of any observations or suggestions offered here will vary by individual.

Decreased blood circulation is common among older people, making them generally more sensitive to cooler temperatures. But for someone with Alzheimer’s, this effect is severely magnified. Dementia has damaged the portion of their brain (the hypothalamus) which controls a variety of functions including their body’s thermostat. So in a room that feels “comfortable” to us, someone with Alzheimer’s may be freezing. Obviously this can impact activities such as dressing and bathing as well. Particular care should be taken that room temperatures and water temperatures of a bath or shower are not discomforting. Some people with the disease also develop extreme sensitivity of the skin. The pressure of water swirling around them in a tub or hitting them from above in a shower can be a very tactile and painful experience. The issue may be resolved by using a shower wand where the flow and movement can be controlled.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s: Reality Orientation”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:27:13 PM
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NOTE: Because there is no true “treatment” or cure for Alzheimer’s, caring for someone with the disease is ultimately a matter of providing comfort and assurance. Over the past two decades of specializing in such care, our family has gained valuable insights into minimizing the effects of Alzheimer’s and creating an environment that affords the highest quality of life in these unique circumstances.

People with Alzheimer’s are confused. They will ask a question, hear the answer, then ask the same question again. And again. This repeated questioning demands patience and understanding on the part of caregivers. “Today is Sunday isn’t it?” You may have answered this a dozen times, but they don’t remember. Or understand. In the early stages of dementia, we use Reality Orientation to reassure them. By patiently and truthfully answering the question each time, we can temporarily clear up their confusion and ease their anxiety. But as the disease progresses, Reality Orientation becomes counter-productive as any attempt to “clear things up” results in further anxiety or confusion. We then switch to a technique called Validation Therapy, which will be covered in tomorrow’s update.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s: Validation Therapy”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:24:25 PM
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NOTE: Because there is no true “treatment” or cure for Alzheimer’s, caring for someone with the disease is ultimately a matter of providing comfort and assurance. Over the past two decades of specializing in such care, our family has gained valuable insights into minimizing the effects of Alzheimer’s and creating an environment that affords the highest quality of life in these unique circumstances.

Alzheimer’s robs people of their understanding. They lose the ability to distinguish between past and present, real and unreal. And as their disease progresses, our desire to help them understand may only add to their anxiety. When facts differ from what they “know,” frustration and anger can result. Here is where we switch from Reality Orientation (which I discussed in yesterday’s update) to Validation Therapy. Validation Therapy is simply that, validating “their reality.” For example, if they persist in seeking their Mother (long-since passed), instead of arguing we shift the conversation to their underlying feelings. “Your Mother was very caring, wasn’t she?” “Was she a good cook?” “Did she have a garden?” By responding in this way we keep the episode positive by focusing on the “feelings” they have for those still living in their memories.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“Caring For Someone With Alzheimer’s: Home For The Holidays”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:24:00 PM
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If you’re considering bringing a loved one with Alzheimer’s home during the holidays, here are a few things to consider. First and foremost, plan ahead. Allow extra time for everything and try to adapt your plans to their routine as much as possible. Give their care staff several days’ advance notice so they have time to prepare medications and clothing. Provide a quiet place where your loved one can rest when necessary. Rather than an extended stay or even a daylong visit, consider limiting their visit to just an hour or two – perhaps for lunch. Be aware of their diet and restrictions. During their visit, reminisce about the past, play holiday music of their era, watch home movies or view family pictures – anything that may comfort them. And above all, don’t use your precious time together to try to “set the record straight” if their reality differs from yours. Recognize that your reality, and perhaps even members of your family, may be unfamiliar to them now. While the holidays can be challenging for you, they can be overwhelming for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“Caring For Someone With Alzheimer’s: Holiday Travel”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:23:38 PM
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I would suggest that families think hard before making any travel plans that include a loved one with dementia. Their condition may make extended travel impractical or at least unadvisable. Families should never let a loved one with Alzheimer’s travel alone. Crowded transportation terminals can pose a special threat for someone who is already disoriented. The peace of mind that an accompanying personal care assistant or home health aid can provide is well worth the cost. If you’re staying in a hotel with someone who has Alzheimer’s, be mindful of the dangers posed by balconies, stairways, tightly arranged furniture, extreme bathwater temperatures, and other unfamiliar aspects of your surroundings. One final note of caution: for individuals who exhibit certain behaviors, travel should be discouraged all together. These would include consistent disorientation or agitation in their already familiar settings; wanting to go home during short visits away; delusional, paranoid, aggressive or uninhibited behavior; incontinence; anxious or fearful behavior in crowds; and wandering.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“Caring For Someone With Alzheimer’s: Holiday Safety”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:22:16 PM
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A more frenzied pace, bustling crowds, a schedule that is anything but routine – these are signs of the holidays. These are also someone with Alzheimer’s worst nightmare. That’s why it’s important to take special precautions if your holiday activities involve caring for a loved one with the disease. If they are accompanying you shopping, go during hours when the stores are less crowded. Consider smaller, out-of-the-way shops rather than busy malls. Never leave your loved one alone in the car, or unattended waiting somewhere for your return.

If you cannot have them with you at all times, arrange for someone else to stay with them while you shop. If you are having them help with your holiday preparations at home, monitor their kitchen activities. Keep sharp knives and other potential risks out of their reach. Remove decorations or obstacles that might cause a fall in halls and pathways. Be sure to check the microwave, dishwasher and trash cans after their visit to prevent any unpleasant – or even dangerous – surprises.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“Caring For Someone With Alzheimer’s: Holiday Gatherings”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:21:58 PM
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The holidays can be stressful for anyone, but they pose special challenges for people suffering with Alzheimer’s. The disorientation and sense of confusion that accompany the disease can make holidays together difficult. While a loved one with Alzheimer’s may find joy in helping with holiday preparations, it is important to consider their limitations. Invite them to join in simple traditions – perhaps decorating or baking, making pudding, stuffing stockings. But remember, just one thing at a time.

If family members are planning to visit, keep in mind that small groups are preferable to large gatherings. Ask guests to call ahead to determine the best time to visit, and let your loved one know in advance who is coming. Encourage visitors to reintroduce themselves if necessary, in a casual, comfortable manner.

As odd as it may seem, consider having everyone wear name tags. This can help with recognition and relieve the stress your loved may feel trying to recall names.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“Mom’s condition is getting to be more than we can manage…”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:21:00 PM
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Mom’s condition is getting to be more than we can manage.  What should we look for in a care facility?

We know that Alzheimer’s disease places extraordinary demands on caregivers. The strange mix of symptoms and behaviors requires a specialized setting and a unique mix of skills to ensure proper care.

Medical studies as well as our own experience have shown that social interaction is absolutely essential in caring for people with Alzheimer’s. At the same time, we recognize how important it is to encourage the person’s independence and self-sufficiency to foster self-respect.

Years of experience have taught us that personal space, an individualized schedule filled with familiar elements, and one-on-one communication can be achieved only in a non-institutional setting in which the person remains an individual.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“My 84-year-old dad continually asks about his mother who passed years ago…”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:20:17 PM
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My 84-year-old dad continually asks about his mother who passed years ago.  How can we keep this from causing friction?

As people advance through the stages of Alzheimer’s, they often lose the ability to distinguish between past and present. They may not recognize their own family members, or mistake them for friends or relatives long since gone. People and events from their past become real to them again, and they may persist in statements you know not to be true. At this stage, it’s best to switch from a reality orientation to validation.

Make an effort to distinguish between their reality and yours. Your loved one is not “wrong” or intentionally denying the truth; they are simply trying to cope with their own truth. Recognize the disease for what it is and go along with them. Understand that what they’re really seeking is the comfort and assurance their memories contain. Direct the conversation toward those feelings and respond in a positive way. If they ask about Mom, you can answer, “Your mom was really special, wasn’t she? I bet she was a great cook.” Above all, avoid arguing or adding to the frustration you both already feel. After all, as your loved one suffers through this tragic disease, how important is it to be “right?”

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

 

“How do we know when it’s time to look for care outside the family?”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:19:50 PM
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Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s is an ominous task. In addition to the physical demands, there can be untold mental stress as you witness a loved one evolve from the self-sufficient individual you knew into a helpless stranger. The decision to seek an alternative is one each individual or family must make on their own.

Obviously the most important consideration is the health and well-being of the person with the disease. When their physical and social needs become more than you can satisfy in the normal functioning of your daily life, it’s time to look for an alternative. But other considerations are important too, including your own health and well-being.

More than 40% of Alzheimer’s caregivers rate the emotional stress as “high” or “very high”, and approximately one-third show symptoms of depression. At some point, care outside the family is in everyone’s best interest.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

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Testimonials

“The family gratefully acknowledges and thanks ComfortCare Homes in Wichita for the excellent care they gave Margaret the past two years.  They treated all of us with such love and respect.  Alzheimer’s Disease truly is the ‘long goodbye.’ “

- Barber Family, in the Wichita Eagle.

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