Accordingto the Alzheimer's Association, 15.5 million family and friends of dementia patients provided over 17 billion hours of care in 2013. Sadly, many of those patients end up in facilities because the families aren't trained to deal with the unique set of problems presented by these patients. Victims of Alzheimer's and the various other kinds of dementia act out in wildly unpredictable and irrational ways. Without the proper training and experience, people tend to try to reason with these patients, treating them like they would anyone else, only to exacerbate the situation. Finally, out of desperation, feeling themselves succumbing to their own debilitating fatigue from unrelenting stress, the family sends their loved on off to a memory care unit, or skilled nursing facility as a matter of self-survival.
Here is a list of the top ten behaviors, if not handled professionally by care givers trained and experienced with these disorders, will cause a family to institutionalize their loved one:
1) Anger & Agitation: Usually a symptom of some other underlying cause of distress, such as physical illness, hunger, need to go to the bathroom, feeling cold or hot, fatigue, or hallucinations. Since these patients lose the ability to communicate adequately, they try to communicate their emotional or physical needs the only way they can, and sometimes that leads to angry outbursts or even violence.
2) Problems with bathing: Resistance to basic hygiene can come from depression, a fear of falling (especially if this has happened in the past), feeling overwhelmed, and sometimes an irrational fear of hair washing sometimes develops as people lose the basic understanding of why it is necessary.
3) Problems with dressing: Depression again can trigger this behavior, perhaps poor vision or loss of fine motor skills can make dressing and overwhelming chore.
4) Eating and drinking difficulties: Depression and physical illness have to be examined here also. Side effects from medication may be having a negative consequence. Dental problems that they can't communicate could also be an underlying cause.
5) Incontinence: Urinary tract infections are more common as we get older, and without the ability to communicate the discomfort, this can lead to bladder issues. Prostate trouble in men should be considered. Chronic conditions such as Parkinson's or arthritis can be contributing factors. Or something as simple as too much diuretic in daily diet from coffee, tea, cola, hot cocoa and alcohol may be the cause.
6) Problems with sleep: Improper medications are always to be considered with sleep issues. Overly bright night lights can cause a reduction in Melatonin and create restlessness. Soft, warm, even red night lights work best to prevent disruption on Melatonin levels. Restless leg syndrome can be treated by a trip to the doctor
7) Hallucinations and paranoia: Falls or head trauma, psychiatric illness, an unfamiliar environment, poor lighting, too many distractions in the background environment, or maybe an underlying illness is causing a lack of oxygen: Also important to remember that not all hallucinations are bad. If the person is OK with the imaginary little girl on the table, then you should be too.
8) Repetitive actions: Remember that the person is not repeating a statement on purpose. You can play along and answer their questions every time you hear them. But sometimes there are triggers in the environment that keep prompting the same inquiries. Is there a hat or coat on a rack nearby? Does the person see a car in the driveway? Try moving things around to change their focus.
9) Wanting to "Go Home": Even though the patient may have been in the same domicile for many years, as the disease progresses they may only remember homes from decades past. Redirecting them to another activity, checking the temperature, sensory overload, boredom and loneliness, missing a family member, all these can trigger this behavior so be sure to ask questions and get to the heart of the matter.
10) Wandering: The most potentially dangerous of all problematic behaviors, wandering can be triggered by the patient being confused, remembering something that used to be part of everyday life long ago, or being stressed or afraid of poor lighting. Never act alarmed, always approach the person from the front, offer your hand, walk beside them and ask a lot of questions to determine the cause of the wandering.
Our patented program is used to train and supervise all our caregivers in dealing with all of these challenging, problematic behaviors. The program is software based and creates a customized schedule for each patient, with regular supervisory visits to re-assess the quality of life and adjust the daily schedule as needed. It is the best way to give Alzheimer's and dementia patients the best possible quality of life. If you want to keep your loved one safe at home, and out of a facility, we can help.