Today’s meeting brought together several resources to teach us about Dementia and Alzheimers and ways to cope with being a caregiver. At the end of the article I will post phone numbers where you can get help if you need assistance.
The first speaker was Danielle Valery from Sarasota Memorial Hospital Health Care System. Within the population of 170,000 people over 65 in Sarasota, Desoto, and Highlands Counties, 23000 will develop Alzheimers. She assured us its perfectly normal to forget things. Forgettting can be caused by poor attention, stress, poor sleep, medical/psychiatric problems or prescriptions. Its normal to have slower recall, harder to learn new information, more difficult to find your words, and harder to handle ten things at once.
The first phase of Dementia is called Mild Cognitive Impairment and is a pre-curser to dementia but you can stay in this stage for decades and never get dementia. The phase doesn’t impact your life, is simple and mild, not serious enough to be dementia, but should be evaluated early. 65% of patients do develop dementia.
Dementia is slow and progressive and is an umbrella term covering many possible causes: Parkinson’s; Alzheimers; Fronto-temporal Dementia; Vascular issues; and others. Alzheimers is caused by a plaque made of protein that clogs the spaces between the nerves causing brain cells to die. Symptoms are short term memory loss, difficulty with words, confusion and behavior changes.
Ten early signs/symptoms:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Changes in planning or solving a problem
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble with visual images/spatial relationships e.g., driving
- New problems with words
- Misplacing things; can’t retrace steps
- decrease in judgement; falling for scams
- withdrawal, social or at work
- change in personality
What should you do if someone presents this way to you?
- T – talk slowly to them
- A – Ask simple questions limiting choices
- L – Limit reality checks
- K – Keep eye contact
Another step in the progression is “wandering”. You’ll know it happens when it happens and not before. How to help? Get a lifesaver bracelet, Silver Alert, Medical Alert bracelets, Scent Preservation Kits (k-9s can actually track someone if you’ve done this!)
You can get a free screening by calling the Alzheimers Assoc.
“Change of Pace” is a center for adults with Alzheimers or dementia who need supervision at home. It offers a safe environment, a variety of planned activities, storytelling, playing games, snacks and nutritious meals, and rest times. It gives caregives a much needed respite. The goal is to help caregivers get a relief from their stress. Open 7:00am-5:00pm at a cost of $65/day.
“NU-HOPE” Elder care services helps seniors and their caregivers. They focus on individual needs such as help inthe home, laundry, cleaning, bathing/dressing, supervision, and respite. Advice: get an alert button; set up a plan to alert neighbors if you need help. They offer ten services. They are a tool to help caregivers do their job.
Prevent elder abuse by keeping your eyes open. Sometimes reporting a situation is the best way to get them help very quickly.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital, 941-917-7197
Alzheimers Assoc, 24/7, 800-272-3900
Change of Pace, 863-382-1188
Adult Protective Services Hotline, 800-96-ABUSE