Why Go If My Loved One Can’t Remember My Visit?

By Carol Combs, MSW, Oxford’s Memory Care Coordinator

When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, it changes the way friends and family interact with the person. Knowing what to say, or even how to act, can be challenging. The individual may not remember those who come to visit or remember prior visits.

When visiting a loved one with Alzheimer’s you may hear questions such as, “Why don’t you ever visit?” or “Who are you?” Such questions, as well as behavioral changes that accompany the disease, can make visiting difficult and uncomfortable.

However, there are some things you can do to help ease the discomfort and make your visit more pleasant for you and your loved one.

  • Focus on feelings – the content of the conversation doesn’t matter. The feelings and sense of contentment created will make a difference. Emotion lasts longer than memory. The emotion resulting from a positive visit can improve a person’s mood and influence the rest of the day.
  • Accept the person’s reality- don’t correct your loved one, just go along with it. If the person insists the grass is blue, agree. Telling the individual it’s really green can create agitation. Instead, offer reassurance and distraction.
  • Introduce yourself- avoid saying “Don’t you remember me?” because if the person doesn’t, it can be embarrassing. Introduce yourself with “Hi Mom, this is Susan.”  Save her the embarrassment or awkward moment.
  • Be respectful- don’t talk to Alzheimer’s patients like they are children. They have a lifetime of experiences, so show them the respect they deserve.
  • Bring an activity – long-term memory is often still intact. Reminiscing with pictures or photo albums can be comforting and encourage conversation. Play music or sing. Consider Music Therapy. Music can stir positive emotions, and individuals may be able to remember lyrics even though their ability to communicate has declined. Exercise improves brain circulation. Encourage movement of arms and legs, or toss a beach ball. Introduce your loved one to a GeriJoy Companion, a special tablet which provides social interaction, helps decrease loneliness and has shown remarkable success with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
  • Touch – hold a hand, stroke hair, hug. Touch is a powerful way to communicate when words fail. People with dementia recognize a caring touch, even in the late stages of the disease.
  • Minimize distractions – it will be more difficult to have a meaningful visit if there is too much noise or activity. Over stimulation can cause agitation. Try to find a quiet place or take a walk outside.

If you know someone with Alzheimer’s and are hesitant to visit, remember that the benefit of your visit may last long after you’ve gone.

For additional support or information, contact Oxford HealthCare. Oxford offers numerous programs that provide the help and relief you need—so you can enjoy time with your loved one and continue to provide care at home. For your peace of mind, advanced technology like Lifeline and GeriJoy helps provide added security when you can’t be with your loved one. To find out more about all Oxford has to help families, contact a Care Coordinator, today.

 

 

 

Oxford Hosts Event to Help Those Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

Oxford HealthCare’s Memory Care Program presents Coping with Caregiving, a free event on Thursday, October 22 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at The Montclair Retirement Community, 1000 E. Montclair in Springfield.

Dementia affects the entire family and presents ongoing changes and challenges. Oxford HealthCare will be there to help, so families do not have to face these challenges alone.

Oxford’s Memory Care Program offers an innovative and compassionate approach to finding solutions to the challenges you and your loved ones face.

The Coping with Caregiving program will focus on:

  • Learning strategies for managing the challenges of caregiving
  • Reinforcing coping skills
  • Resources to assist you in providing care at home

The event is free, but please register at memorycare@oxfordhealthcare.net by October 19, or call 417-883-7500.

 

 

 

The Stages of Alzheimer’s

By: Carol Combs, MSW, Oxford’s Memory Care Program Coordinator

Don'sBackyard_Faded_pathAlzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease causing a slow decline in memory, language, reasoning, judgment, and daily functioning. It typically develops gradually and worsens over the course of several years. This progression is often referred to as stages, but not everyone will experience the same symptoms at the same rate. There are common patterns of symptom progression and a person’s abilities will change through the course of the disease.

Stages are typically referred to as early, middle and late or mild, moderate and severe. It is important to recognize these stages are a rough guide based on averages; each stage could be as brief as a year or as long as ten years. The stages can help patients and families understand what they might expect and plan accordingly.

Early stage symptoms

  • Increased forgetfulness, memory loss for recent events
  • Poor concentration
  • Repetitiveness: telling the same story over and over
  • Difficulty with word finding, expressing thoughts
  • Difficulty with decision making, problem solving or complex tasks
  • Misplacing objects or getting lost in familiar places
  • Mood or personality changes, less tolerance
  • Slower to react or learn something new
  • Needs support/supervision to continue living alone

In the early stage, most people can still live alone and carry out daily tasks, but may need assistance with finances, appointments, meal planning or cooking. This is a good time to organize and simplify daily routines and assess the home for safety. Depression and withdrawal from social activities is not uncommon in this stage and the person may try to hide the memory losses he/she is experiencing.

Middle stage symptoms

  • Increased memory loss, may not recognize family
  • Communication difficulties
  • Problems with reading, writing and numbers
  • Loss of impulse control, poor judgment
  • Difficulty with dressing, bathing, toileting
  • Aggression as a response to frustration
  • Inappropriate behaviors including resisting care, agitation, wandering
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Abnormal sleep/wake cycles
  • Needs full time supervision

In the middle stage, the patient may be more unpredictable and daily activities will be more challenging. Inability to perform tasks such as cooking and driving may lead to unsafe situations. At this stage, many will need full time supervision to remain in their home. Behaviors such as suspicion, wandering, resisting care, agitation and sleep disturbance may be displayed. Frustration is common because the person cannot make sense of the world around them. The behaviors are not intentional and are best dealt with by staying calm, using redirection or distraction, reminiscence and reassurance.

Late stage symptoms

  • Needs to be bathed, dressed, fed, turned
  • Loses ability to verbalize; may yell, groan or grunt
  • Loss of bodily functions, incontinent
  • Flat affect; where their faces show very little emotion
  • Unable to recognize others or themselves
  • Immobility
  • Appears apathetic, lethargic
  • Requires total care, may be appropriate for nursing home placement

With the increased cognitive losses, the patient will become calmer; less distressed by the changes happening to them and appear more apathetic.  Physical losses increase with incontinence, immobility, diminished speech and inability to perform any daily functions.  Physical wellbeing and comfort care become the primary concern. When the patient reaches this final stage additional in-home care including Hospice care may be needed to assist the caregiver.

In all stages, family and caregivers need to obtain available in-home care, seek support, utilize community resources and ensure that legal and financial affairs are in order.

If an individual has not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but is displaying any of these symptoms, he or she should seek a medical assessment promptly. If you have questions or concerns our Memory Care Program Coordinator would be glad to assist you.  Additional information is also available through the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org.