Dealing With Dementia
By: Alice Endy
1994 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. At that time
she had been demonstrating memory deficits for at least two years. My
career had always been in the field of Geriatrics, the care of the
elderly. I had worked with countless families in caring for their
elder family members at home, in Assisted Living Facilities and in
My least favorite patient type was the Dementia patient. I know now
that why I felt that way was
because I had never really walked in the shoes of the dementia
In caring for my mother I have come to appreciate her uniqueness.
Watching her struggle with her losses and struggling myself to come up
with ideas to keep her moving and feeling good about herself has
really helped me to see dementia through new eyes.
It is like caring for a child in reverse order. With a child we wait
with anticipation as they grow through new stages. We watch for them
to sit up, then take their first steps, potty train, talk, ride their
first bike, and on and on.
Well, with aging and dementia, it really is the same process in
reverse. Watch carefully for the subtle changes (losses) and then make
the necessary adjustments in the environment and in ourselves.
For most elderly, as age advances so does the collecting of chronic
Chronic Conditions: to name a few arthritis, heart disease, high blood
pressure, diabetes, poor vision, reduced hearing, reduced hearing and
reduced muscle strength.
Chronic diseases must be managed and it takes willingness on the part
of the elder and often the
family, to learn about the disease, treatment and limitations.
Aging happens over time, gradually over years. Abilities decline and
needs increase. The ability to clean house, do the laundry, do yard
work, grocery shop, participate in hobbies, entertain in the home,
prepare fancy meals, handle finances, and to drive.
Physical changes often progress to personal care deficits fear of
falling in the shower, they stop showering, walking distances that
they were able to handle previously, toileting themselves without
accidents, stop going out especially for social events.
A variety of reasons will often emerge if asked why they stopped doing
something. Rarely will the whole truth be told. Denial is very strong
due to the fear of being dependent on others and fear of being remove
from their home. As the adult children we are obligated to watch
carefully for these changes in our parents.
Cognitive Changes: When it comes to cognitive changes things do not
get any easier. Approximately 50% of 85 year old have dementia. Their
symptoms usually have been present a few years before diagnosis.
Please read that again, 50% of 85 year olds have dementia. So many
family members ignore the symptoms (they also suffer from denial) Your
elder usually needs help long before he or she is getting the
Elders with dementia have often lost the ability to reason, to react
logically or correctly interpret
their surroundings. Often unhealthy or irrational decisions are made
frequently related to safety and medications.
Page #2 Dealing With Dementia
About the Author:
Alice Endy is a Registered Nurse with advanced certification as a
Gerontological Nurse. Alice has helped thousands provide care and
support to their elder family members. Alice has been a caregiver for
her Mother who is in her twelfth year of Alzheimer’s Disease. http://www.AskNurseAlice.com
Webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed
Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate
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