How Alzheimer’s continues to impact families

by MichelleR on March 30, 2011

Today I came across 2 articles on Alzheimer’s and how is impacts family caregivers.

Did you know there are 15 million unpaid family caregivers?  Nearly 15 million unpaid caregivers help someone with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in the USA — 37% more than last year, according to a report out today from the Alzheimer’s Association.

“The toll on families is devastating,” says the association’s Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent services. “Stress is extremely high, and one-third are experiencing depression.”

Every 69 seconds someone develops the disease and there is no end in sight.

After reading this article I came across another report on CNN, When Alzheimer’s turns violent.  The article talked about families where love ones have become violent as a result of the disease.

Here are some tips if you too are dealing with someone in your family with Alzheimer’s who becomes violent.

1. Back down.

Most of the time, the incident escalates when the patient does not want to do tasks such as undress, brush teeth or bathe.

“No one ever died from not bathing,” said Geri Hall, advanced practice nurse at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. “Relax and calm down about it. If the patient means no, they mean no, and you have to heed that.”

Patients lose their ability to reason, so don’t try to negotiate. Try again later when the person’s mood has improved.

2. When the patient is upset, apologize — even when it’s not your fault.

“You apologize because the patient is upset,” Hall said. Using this strategy will buy you time and good will.

Don’t argue with an Alzheimer’s patient, because you can’t win. Don’t physically force the person to do anything, she warned. This could worsen the situation and possibly injure all parties involved.

3. When the patient becomes agitated, change the topic.

Move to another room to see the birds or something he or she usually enjoys. Talk about something the person enjoys while remaining calm.

“If you can stay calm, you can mirror that calmness back to them,” Kallmyer of the Alzheimer’s Association advised.

4. Keep in mind that the world is distorted for an Alzheimer’s patient.

The patient is sensitive to noise and easily fatigued.

“They become exhausted trying to follow on a day-to-day basis,” Hall said. “Without a rest period, it’s like you didn’t get a toddler to nap. They are increasingly irritable and they are confused late in the day. That’s called a sundown syndrome — when they may become agitated and aggressive.”

5. Call for help.

Call 911, if the patient or you are at risk for injuries. When a patient sees a uniform, he or she is likely to feel reassured about his or her safety, Hall said.

For nonemergency help, contact the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24-hour hotline: 1-800-272-3900.

In closing remember to be kind to yourself.  Consider seeking professional help as this may be one way to get a break and some respite.  Lastly don’t feel guilty.

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