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Caring for people with Alzheimer's


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Title: Caring for people with Alzheimer's

A caregivers guide For Alzheimers Care

Overview of Alzheimers Disease and Related
  • Different types of Dementia
  • What is Alzheimers Disease (AD)?
  • The A, B, Cs of Alzheimers Disease
  • Symptoms and stages of Alzheimers Disease
  • Risk Factors for AD
  • Diagnosing AD
  • See Alzheimers Disease Inside Looking Out (a
  • Treatment Options
  • See Alzheimers How Families Cope (a video)
  • Caregivers Solving Day-to-Day Problems
  • Caregivers Creating a Safe Home Environment
  • What is new? Clinical Trials (
    trials or call ADEAR Center at 1-800-438-4380
  • See Losing it All The Reality of Alzheimers
    Disease (a video)
  • Caregivers Bill of Rights
  • Resources in the Community

  • What is your experience with Alzheimers?
  • What is your experience with Dementia?
  • What do you want to know about Alzheimers today?

Different Types of Dementia
Dementia refers to a general loss of intellectual
functions (i.e., memory, reasoning,
concentration, attention, abstract ability, and
reduced language function), plus personality
changes (though not always disorientation). There
are two types of dementia reversible and
  • Reversible dementia can go away when the cause
    of what is affecting the brain is removed. It is
    extremely important for caregivers to identify
    reversible dementia so it can be treated! When a
    person begins to exhibit forgetfulness,
    inattention, slower thinking, listlessness, and
    inability to think straight, do not attribute
    these behaviors to getting older.
  • Possible reasons for reversible dementia
  • Infection (often pneumonia or urinary tract
    infection (UTI).
  • Dehydration / poor nutrition.
  • Electrolyte imbalance, diabetes out of control,
    thyroid problems, renal problems.
  • Medications / alcohol Always suspect medication
    as a cause of confusion in elderly.

Examples of reversible Dementia
  • Transient Isachemic Attack (TIA), mini stroke)
  • This is a partial blockage of blood flow to the
    brain. Possible symptoms include visual
    disturbances in on one or both eyes, dizziness,
    weakness, difficulty swallowing, numbness or
    unconsciousness. The attack usually lasts a few
    minutes with symptoms rarely continuing for
    several hours.
  • Delirium
  • This is an acute state of mental confusion,
    characterized by disorientation and an inability
    to process information or focus on immediate
    surroundings. It is usually Temporary and is
    reversed when the illness or condition that
    caused it is treated. Delirium is one of the
    most common mental disorders in the elderly and
    one of the most serious.
  • Depression
  • This can appear to be dementia. Chronic
    depression is very common in the elderly and it
    can be treated effectively with medications.
  • Anxiety/Grief
  • If identified, it can be dealt with to reduce
    confusion and other dementia symptoms.

Reversible dementia, continued
  • Head Injury / Traumatic Brain Injury
  • The most common is a closed head injury. A
    closed head injury is usually caused by rapid
    acceleration and deceleration of the head during
    which the brain is whipped back and forth,
    bouncing off the inside of the bony skull. Skull
    fractures are a common result of closed head
  • Symptoms of a head injury include
  • Motor Problems weak paralysis, poor balance,
    coordination, decreased endurance, loss of
    ability to control motor movement, or abnormal
    muscle tone and stiffness are often problems
    relating to head injury.
  • Perceptual Problems Changes in sensations
    related to hearing, vision, taste, smell, and
  • Speech and Language Deficits Difficulty in
    understanding what is said or difficulty in
    expressing thought (aphasia).
  • Cognitive Problems Changes may occur in mental
    activities, personality, and social behavior.
    Cognitive problems include disorientation,
    distractibility, memory loss, and
    disorganization, lack of generalization, poor
    judgment, and impaired problem solving skills,
    inflexibility, and loss of abstract reasoning.
  • Memory A person with a head injury may
    experience short-term of long-term memory, and a
    problem storing or retrieving information.
    Amnesia, a lack of memory for a period of time.
  • Denial The person may not even be aware or
    understand his or her current situation and may
    deny there are any problems they may reject
    treatment, attempt to perform potentially
    dangerous activities such as driving, or return
    to work before mentally or emotionally ready.
  • Regulatory Deficits There may be changes in
    basic bodily functions related to body
    temperature, level of awareness, swallowing and
    bladder/bowel control. They may fatigue easily
    and require frequent rest. The patient may have
    a short attention span. External stimulation
    (visitors, sounds, etc.) must often be limited in
    the early stages of recovery.
  • Seizures Seizures may occur immediately
    following the brain injury or develop several
    months later. Doctors will often prescribe
    medication that will help prevent seizures, just
    as a precautionary measure.

  • Irreversible Dementia A condition that comes on
    gradually and has no cure. The patient may
    progress through several stages
  • Loss of memory, insight, judgment, personality
    changes, mental confusion, language disturbances,
    and severe disorientation
  • The patient may eventually become incontinent,
    wander, and have behavior changes
  • The patient will eventually become totally
    dependent on others.
  • Other Causes of Irreversible Dementia Diseases
    Besides Alzheimers Disease
  • Multi-Stroke Dementia A rapid form of brain
    disease with rapid deterioration of the
    intellectual functioning, caused by vascular
    disease such as one or more ongoing small strokes
    that destroy or damage brain tissue.
  • Parkinsons Dementia Occurs when there is a
    defect in the part of the brain that controls the
    bodys voluntary
  • AIDS Dementia This dementia is related to
    having AIDS (HIV disease) in which the immune
    system is constantly attacked and weakened. AIDS
    dementia symptoms can stabilize for months at a
    time if the patient responds to medications that
    reduce the amount of virus in the body.

What is Alzheimers Disease? This section is
adapted from the Alzheimers Disease Education
Referral Center. Dementia is a brain disorder
that seriously affects a persons ability to
carry out daily activities. Alzheimers Disease
(AD) is the most common form of Dementia among
older people. It involves the parts of the brain
that control thought, memory, and language.
  • Scientists think up to four million Americans
    suffer from AD. The disease usually begins after
    the age of 60, and the risk increases with age.
  • AD is not a normal part of aging!
  • AD is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German
  • In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the
    brain of a woman who died of an unusual mental
  • The woman had experienced severe memory problems,
    confusion, and difficulty understanding
  • Upon her death, he performed an autopsy on her
    brain, and described dense deposits outside and
    around nerve cells that looked like abnormal
    clumps (now called amyloid plaques, and tangled
    bundles of twisted bands of fibers (now called
    neurofibrillary tangles.).
  • Today these plaques and tangles in the brain are
    considered the hallmarks of AD.

The A, B, Cs of Alzheimers Disease. AD causes a
gradual decline in three main areas which you can
think of as ABC for short. A is for
Activities of daily living. This means a person
is able to care for him or herself doing routine
tasks such as getting dressed or cooking. B is
for Behavior This relates to mood and
personality changes, such as a persons emotions,
interest in being with others, and eating and
sleeping C is for Cognition This includes
mental tasks such as thinking, reasoning, and
learning. Being able to remember friends names,
past or current events, or where you live.
Symptoms and Stages of Alzheimers
Disease Adapted from the Growing challenge of
Alzheimers Disease in Residential Settings. The
Alzheimers Disease Education Center (pages
21-23) Early Stage of Alzheimers Disease
Memory Recent memory loss of the time
Language mild aphasia (difficulty understanding and expressing languages difficulty following instructions difficulty following conversations difficulty expressing feelings
Orientation Seeks the familiar and avoids the unfamiliar
Mood and Behavior Apathy, depression
Motor Some difficulty writing and using objects
Activities of Daily Living Needs reminders with some ADLs
Your notes
Early Stages of Alzheimers Disease
The symptoms are more obvious - The symptoms are more obvious -
Memory Routine loss of recent memory
Language Moderate loss, difficulty understanding and expressing language
Orientation May get lost at times, even inside the home
Motor Repetitive action, problems processing meanings
Mood Possible mood and behavior disturbances
ADLs Needs reminders and help for daily living activities
Your notes
Stages of Alzheimers Disease (continued)
Late stages of Alzheimers Disease Late stages of Alzheimers Disease
Memory Mixes up past and present
Language Impaired in understanding and expressing language impaired ability to process information
Orientation Misidentifies familiar persons and places
Motor Bradykinesia lowness of movement, difficulty imitating movement, poor handwriting, inability to button clothes
Activities of Daily Living Needs help with ALL activities
Your notes
Terminal Stages of Alzheimers Disease
Memory No apparent link to past or present
Language Mute or few incoherent words
Orientation Mostly oblivious to surroundings
Motor Little spontaneous movement, possible seizures
Mood and Behavior Generally passive
ADLs Needs total care
Your notes
Possible Risk Factors for AD Adapted from The
Growing Challenge of Alzheimers Disease in the
Residential Settings., The Alzheimers Disease
Education Center (pages 24-28)
  • Environmental Toxins
  • Possible low education occupational attainment
  • Head Trauma
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Genes Linked to AD
  • Down Syndrome
  • Family History
  • Female Gender
  • Increasing Age
  • Loss of Estrogen Production

Your notes
  • Diagnosing AD
  • Benefits of Early Diagnosis
  • Allows time to initiate appropriate treatments
  • Delay cognitive deterioration
  • Gives the caregiver / family time to plan
  • Health, financial, and estate planning
  • Proper referrals
  • Your doctor can only diagnoses Probable AD
  • A definite diagnosis is possible only after
    death, and the autopsy reveals brain changes,
    formation of the plaque and neurofibrillary

Diagnostic Evaluation of Dementia
Patient History Mini-Mental State Examination Physical Exam Chest X-Ray Blood Work Urine Test CT or CAT scan EEG Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRSI) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Electrocardiogram (ECG /EKG) Neuropsychological Testing Position emission tomography (PET) Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
Treatment Options Adapted from Health
with Web MD http//
There is currently no cure for AD. However,
planning and medical/social management can help
ease the burden on both the patients and family
members. There are a number of medications to
help preserve the intellectual functioning for
patients with AD. These medications help
preserve the function and the ability to carry
out the daily functioning. Medication should be
given EARLY in the course of the disease. There
are also medications to help manage the most
troubling symptoms of AD, including depression,
behavior problems, and sleeplessness.
  • Specific medications used to treat AD
  • Tacrine (Cognex)
  • Slows the breakdown of acetylcholine (the
    chemical that helps nerve endings communicate).
    Helps relieve memory impairment.
  • Side effects appear to gastrointestinal
    (vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, indigestion,
    and may damage the liver or produce a skin rash.
  • Donepezil (Aricept)
  • Slows the breakdown of acetylcholine, like
    Tacrine. However, it has less die effects.
  • Rivastigmine (Exelon) or Galantamine (Reminyl)
  • A newer Drug Slows the breakdown of
  • Other drugs that treat disruptive symptoms like
    depression, paranoia, wandering, hallucinations,
    agitation, and confusion
  • Antyphsychotics Used to treat paranoia and
  • Anti-Depressants Treats depression.
    Side-effects can be drowsiness, dry mouth,
    constipation, and anxiety.
  • Anti-Anxiety Side effects include drowsiness.
  • Other treatments that are preventative
  • Estrogen
  • Vitamin E
  • Anti-Oxidants
  • Alternative Medication

Caregivers Solving Day-to-Day Problems Adapted
from http//
about/Solving-problems.htm 2003
  • Communications
  • Daily Grooming
  • Dressing
  • Driving
  • Mealtime
  • Sleeping Problems
  • Sundowning
  • Toileting / Wandering
  • Catastrophic Behavior

Caregivers Creating a Safe Environment
  • Bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • Stairs
  • Windows and Doors
  • Fire, Burn and Electrical Shock Safety
  • Personal Safety

Your Notes
Caregivers Bill of Rights
Providing care for a person with Alzheimers
disease is often a stressful and demanding
ordeal. It is important to remember that
caregivers have human needs and emotions. They
must care for the patient as well as themselves.
The Alzheimers Family Relief Programs
Caregivers Bill of Rights offers some tips for
  • BE ANGRY. Turn this energy into positive action.
    Clean closets, take a walk, talk with someone.
  • BE FRUSTRATED Stop the present activity, take a
    deep breath, and begin a different activity.
  • TAKE TIME ALONE A favorite chair in a quiet
    room, a trop to the store, or a few hours out
    with friends.
  • TRUST YOUR JUDGMENT Relax, you are doing the
    best you can.
  • RECOGNIZE YOUR LIMITS You are a valuable
    person. Take care of yourself too!
  • MAKE MISTAKES No one is perfect. This is how
    we learn.
  • GRIEVE This is a normal response to a loss.
    You may be sad over the loss of the way things
    used to be.
  • LAUGH and LOVE It may seem out of place, but
    your capacity to feel is not gone, and can occur
  • HOPE Tomorrow, the day may go smoother, a
    friend may call, a cure may be found.

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