Dementia is a scary diagnosis
Dementia is a dark cloud hanging over our society.
Although physicians have in the past not really shared the credentials for a specialty. And many with this specialty (geriatrics), have only provided this information believing there would be a smaller patient base in their business. However with the graying of our population, many are now publicize this. Looking for a Gerontologist? We can do so easily enough (specific location) calls placed to the local hospital social services and ask to speak to a social worker. Social workers are those responsible for placement when a person is going home to an unsafe setting. Social Workers know where to find physicians specializing in the local area.
First, we must find out if this is true dementia or a sign of something far more easily correctable. One symptom of correctable dementia is medication interaction. This is one of the reasons why a pharmacist looks so closely at all medications we are taking. Our pharmacist should also know about over the counter medicines as well. Drugs are of no value to us if they trade one symptom for another or interact with our routine to the point we can’t sleep or function. A prime example is food interactions with medications. Some drugs will be absorbed in our system faster than it should, statins (blood pressure medications) will act at a different rate than the physician wants when the patient drinks or eats certain foods.
Knowing how our medications interact with foods is a very valuable tool. The pharmacist can make a quick determination of any medication interactions can be done by setting up an appointment. Be sure to take the bottles your medication comes into the local pharmacy and ask the pharmacist to check it over.
The two paragraphs above specifically deal with food-drug interaction. There is one item in most households universally which can be our blessing or bring on catastrophic results, this is Water. Years of education are spent making us aware of the amount of water we should drink every day. However, we seldom see or hear the result of too much water. A senior may, especially in summer months, overact to this and over drink more water than needed. This can cause medications to act in an entirely different way than prescribed. Whether too much or too little water can cause dementia. The quick fix is to go to your doctor and find the best way to cut back or increase water to bring our body back under control.
The caveat is we can change things as simple as water or the time of day we take a medication that will clear dementia within a few hours.
However, what if the diagnosis is one based in dementia, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Korsakoff syndrome, or hereditary. These are only a few of the villains where the cure is not possible at this time. What can we do for our family and friends while there is still time?
No matter the disease (Cancer, IBF, Sarcoidosis, Asthma and so on) our families live through this part of our lives. We are impacted by the good and bad of this illness just as we are. Emotionally everyone in our circle of friends and family will be influenced by the ups and downs of the disease. How can we help with the fallout and the support necessary when a friend or family member is suffering a disease that could end their life
These are our mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers.
Three not so little steps.
The first step - is to gather our wits, paper and pen, a journal would be best. Consider all of the options, every aspect of our life will be impacted. Write down all of the feelings associated with this change in our life. After completing this first step and don’t marginalize it, begin a list of everything we have always wanted to know, why we don’t attend the school sponsored events to why they did or did not get married. This is not a black and white answer, pay attention to all the listening skills we have cultivated.
The second Step - As we work through these steps and if we take them seriously, we will know what kind of care this person would like and financially or socially. Today there is almost any kind of setting and personal care like in-home, in a structured living setting, skilled nursing care (nursing home), care provided by friends or family. We will also be aware of how to introduce this new care, in a way not frightening or to further debilitate.
The third step - Begin a list of daily routine skills which impact our family or friend (the answer will be a list of routine items, actions, and very personal skills) not to mention everyone how comes into contact with this person. Armed with the newfound information we know what this person expects from the time they open their eyes until they close them at the close of the day. Do not discount things as simple as what beverage they will want first in the morning and when they will want it, or, when and how they bath? Do they prefer a bath at bedtime or a shower when right out of bed? The times they eat their meals and the type of meal they desire. What have they done for entertainment most recently in their life? It is very stressful for a 70-year-old to be sat in front of a TV or worse a gaming station when it was never a part of their life before. And always plan some solitude, maybe only 15 minutes – everyone needs some alone time.
Medical care is not just up to the professionals.
These may seem like a way to give you busy work, but to the contrary, these items will make everyone’s life far less of an upheaval. Something as simple as who will bath the person (male or female) can make or break a situation less stressful and make for an earlier time settling in. It is also very possible the challenges the caregiver might have will be less challenging.
These are only three of the tasks we will need to take on (either literally or when hiring help) to help our family or friend get through this illness with the least amount of stress. Making sure that our family or friend is treated with the utmost respect and care. No matter what the diagnosis our family or friend deserves quality care.