Individuals With Alzheimer’s – Priorities and Tools for Care
When thinking about old age, you imagine your parents sitting on their front porch on rocking chairs watching the sun set. However, sometimes aging without aid in the comfort of your own home isn’t an option.
Certain conditions can pull aging individuals from that idealistic image but that doesn’t mean their standards need to lower. It simply means they will have to rely on others to reach the standard of living they had imagined for themselves.
Getting the proper care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, or similar conditions, can be difficult. Maybe you don’t know where to start, or maybe you don’t know the full scope of what they need to live a fulfilling and safe life.
The main priority is for individuals to live a life that is dignified, healthy and safe. Below are a few things to consider when broaching the subject of care for Alzheimer patients.
– Living Healthily
Having Alzheimer’s disease “does not diminish a person, but changes a person’s capacity to interact with his/her environment” (1). As such, tending to personal hygienic needs may require prompting or, once further developed, the individual may require assistance to complete hygienic tasks. This is the case with dental hygiene, personal hygiene and even toileting, dressing and eating.
It is also important that individuals stay active. “Keeping physically active has been found to help minimize physical and mental decline” (1) Maintaining mobility not only has benefits in slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s but it can also prevent bed sores, stiffness and boredom.
Setting alarms with visible instructions such as “Time to eat” or “Time to shower” will provide a semblance of independence for patients and give them some control over their own health.
Engaging in activities that promote physicality may also help. Dancing, gardening, and walking can all be engaging socially but also aid in mobility. While encouraging movement is important it is also vital to consider safety while engaging in such activities. Anti wandering systems and personal emergency response systems (PERS) will be discussed later.
– Living Dignified
Living with dignity can be achieved by receiving person-centered care. “The person-centered philosophy engages residents in meaningful activities and involves them in programs that stimulate them” (1).
“You matter because you are you and you matter to the last moment of your life. We will do all we can to help you, not only to die peacefully but to live until you die.” Saunders, 1976.
This requires focus on several aspects of the individuals well-being. Alzheimer’s patients should receive mental exercise/intellectual stimulation, a healthy social life, and a reasonable level of privacy, freedom and independence.
“Enjoying every day is important regardless of the stage of the disease and it is critical to discuss the person’s interests and lifelong habits, and enquire about what brings them joy and comfort.” (1) Their personal interests should be considered when engaging them in social interactions. It’s important that they engage in both formal social interactions – such as sing-alongs, card games, parties – but also in informal social interactions like chatting or going for a walk with friends. Staying engaged and active allows for “social interaction (that) not only stimulates but helps maintain their functional abilities and can enhance quality of life” (1).
“Systematic reviews of published research on non-pharmacologic therapies have found that some, such as exercise and cognitive activity (for example, gardening, word games, listening to music and cooking) show promise” in terms of promoting well being for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Word games, flash cards and puzzles are all great for Alzheimer’s patients who aren’t very far progressed into the disease but may prove to be frustrating to those who are farther into the progression. If that is the case, perhaps switching to music, gardening and crafts would be a great option.
Many care facilities don’t allow locks on bathroom doors, but it may feel more dignified for patients if they had a “do not disturb” sign they could use in place of a lock while attending to private business. This allows the patient to have a better sense of control over their privacy and their alone time.
– Living Safe
One of the biggest safety concerns for those living with Alzheimer’s and similar diseases is wandering, also known as dementia wandering. In some instances, wandering is not a concern…in fact it is beneficial.
“Wandering is helpful when it provides stimulation or social contact, or helps maintain mobility. The beneficial effects of this activity can include resident conditioning and strength preservation, prevention of skin breakdown and constipation, and enhancement of mood” (2).
However, wandering can have disastrous results when the patient finds themselves outside of the range of care without the ability to get back to their caregiver.
There are multiple wandering management systems available that attempt to prevent or limit wandering. Some of them are motion sensors that alert caregivers when the patient leaves their room. This type of system prevents wandering – which not only takes away the risk, but also the benefit.
The company Safety Labs offers a product called SafetyAnchor Wandering Protection (WP). This product, instead of preventing wandering, limits it. The SafetyAnchor is placed within the residence and then the patient wears what is called a SafetyButton. The safety button acts as tracking device as well as a medical alert bracelet. There is an invisible tether which links the individual with Alzheimer’s disease to the SafetyAnchor. If that line breaks – meaning the individual wanders too far, outside the scope of the anchor – then an alarm sets off on the anchor, and caregivers are sent alerts on their smart phones! The individual can then be located by phones that have the relevant software and are within 150 feet of the SafetyButton. This means the patient with Alzheimer’s can enjoy the physical act of wandering while limiting the risks involved.
“Safety Labs’ medical alert system, Anchor-PA, provides continuous safety for the elderly by keeping them connected to their loved ones at all times.” (6) This means that not only are the caregivers informed when the tether breaks, but also loved ones and anyone else linked to get alerts.
SafetyAnchor Wandering Protection not only has uses for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients but also for individuals with autism who are also prone to wandering!
To understand more about how the system works, check out the video at the link below.
It’s easy for caregivers and patients to feel alone, but “the disease is expected to impact 2 million more people than today’s 5.3 million by 2025, and 13.8 million by 2050 in America alone” (Alzheimer’s Association®, 2015) With such a large portion of the population potentially facing similar struggles, it’s time for society to get informed and educated on what needs to be improved or changed for Alzheimer patients.
1. Alzheimer Society of Canada
2. Alzheimers Association – Alzheimer’s Association Campaign for Quality Residential Care – Dementia Care Practice Recommendations for Assisted Living Residences and Nursing Homes
3. 2016 Alzheimers disease facts and figures – Alzheimers & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimers Association
5. Autism Wandering. What is Autism?
6. How Has IoT Brought on an Evolution in Safety
7. SafetyLabs Inc – Anchor-WP – Wireless Wander Protection System
Photos: pixabay.com and safetylabs.org