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Education Is Key In The Alzheimer's and Dementia Communities

The Alzheimer's Store is the industry leader in products and resources to safeguard and comfort Alzheimer's and Dementia patients. Here is some informative materials to provide you with some of "the little things" you can do to improve the life of your loved one while bringing comfort to yourself and others affected by Alzheimer's and Dementia. Please know that our community is here for you and that you are not alone. AlzStore likes Elizabeth Agnvall's article in AARP Magazine:

Making A Town Dementia-Friendly

In Watertown, WI, the windows of six businesses display small purple angels. The decals indicate that the employees inside have been trained in recognizing customers with dementia and how best to assist them and their caregivers. At the Connection Cafe, for example, servers might encourage patrons with memory loss to simply point to which size of coffee they want. It's part of a broader effort to educate the town's 24,000 residents about dementia and to keep those who have the condition engaged in the community. The concept of making communities dementia-friendly is spreading in Europe by just taking hold in the United States, notably in Minnesota, where AARP has joined with more than 50 groups to help communities prepare for growing numbers of residents with dementia. The focus is also on those who have dementia. "We have to get rid of this fear of admitting that 'I've got dementia' or 'My loved one has dementia," says Jan Zimmerman, a nurse and administrator at Heritage Homes senior living community who initiated the effort in Watertown last year. "We're hoping to raise awareness so this is not something that hides in the closet."

National Institute on Aging

The issue: Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cells to die, so the brain works less well over time. This changes how a person acts. This article prepared by the National Institute on Aging has suggestions that may help you understand and cope with changes in personality and behavior in a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

What should caregivers expect? Common personality and behavior changes you may see include:

  • Getting upset, worried, and angry more easily
  • Acting depressed or not interested in things
  • Hiding things or believing other people are hiding things
  • Imagining things that aren’t there
  • Wandering away from home
  • Pacing a lot
  • Showing unusual sexual behavior
  • Hitting you or other people
  • Misunderstanding what he or she sees or hears
  • Lack of interest in personal appearance, bathing and changing clothes

Is it just the dementia? In addition to changes in the brain, other things may affect how people with Alzheimer’s behave:

  • Feelings such as sadness, fear, stress, confusion, or anxiety
  • Health-related problems, including illness, pain, new medications, or lack of sleep
  • Other physical issues like infections, constipation, hunger or thirst, or problems seeing or hearing
  • Other problems: Too much noise, such as TV, radio, or many people talking at once can cause frustration and confusion.
  • Stepping from one type of flooring to another, or the way the floor looks may make the person think he or she needs to take a step down.
  • Mirrors may make them think that a mirror image is another person in the room.

If you don’t know what is causing the problem, call the doctor. It could be caused by a physical or medical issue. Click here for NIA’s comprehensive list of common medical problems facing people with Alzheimer’s.

What’s the best way to deal with difficult behavior? Caregivers cannot stop these changes in personality and behavior, but they can learn to cope with them. Here are some tips:

  • Keep things simple. Ask or say one thing at a time.
  • Have a daily routine, so the person knows when certain things will happen.
  • Reassure the person that he or she is safe and you are there to help.
  • Focus on his or her feelings rather than words. For example, say, “You seem worried.”
  • Don’t argue or try to reason with the person.
  • Try not to show your frustration or anger. If you get upset, take deep breaths and count to 10. If it’s safe, leave the room for a few minutes.
  • Use humor when you can.
  • Give people who pace a lot a safe place to walk. Provide comfortable, sturdy shoes. Give them light snacks to eat as they walk, so they don’t lose too much weight, and make sure they have enough to drink.
  • Try using music, singing, or dancing to distract the person.
  • Ask for help. For instance, say, “Let’s set the table” or “I need help folding the clothes.”
  • Talk with the person’s doctor about problems like hitting, biting, depression, or hallucinations. Medications are available to treat some behavioral symptoms.