NIA’s Alzheimer’s Caring Guide in Spanish

Looking for Alzheimer’s caregiving information in Spanish?

Check out Cómo cuidar a una persona con la enfermedad de Alzheimer: Una guía fácil de usar del Instituto Nacional Sobre el Envejecimiento.

This new book from the National Institute on Aging (part of the National Institutes on Health) has helpful tips on topics including: changes in behavior; wandering; healthy eating and exercise; and caregiver health.

Copies are available to order for free on our website, or read the new Alzheimer’s caregiving information in Spanish online.

How do doctors diagnose dementia?

To diagnose dementia, doctors do a medical assessment to determine whether changes are because of an underlying treatable condition like depression or vitamin B12 deficiency. Then, they will assess whether there are signs of dementia.

A medical assessment for dementia generally includes:

  • Patient history. Typical questions about a person’s medical and family history might include asking about whether dementia runs in the family, how and when symptoms began, changes in behavior and personality, and if the person is taking certain medications that might cause or worsen symptoms.
  • Physical exam. Measuring blood pressure and other vital signs may help physicians detect conditions that might cause or occur with dementia. Such conditions may be treatable.
  • Neurological tests. Assessing balance, sensory function, reflexes, vision, eye movements, and other functions helps identify conditions that may affect the diagnosis or may be treatable with drugs.

Learn more about diagnosing dementia.

The National Research Summit on Care, Services and Supports for Persons with Dementia and Their Caregivers

The National Research Summit on Care, Services and Supports for Persons with Dementia and Their Caregivers is a two-day meeting of researchers, service providers, persons with dementia, family caregivers, and other stakeholder groups.

It will be held October 16-17, 2017, at the Natcher Building’s Ruth L. Kirschstein Auditorium of the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland. NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research (NIA/DBSR) would like to encourage you to attend this Research Summit. The meeting is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through private sector support.

In-person registration is now full. The wait list also has reached its capacity. If you would still like to participate in this meeting, you may register for the videocast option.  By registering, you will receive an email with videocast details approximately one week before the Summit. You can register here.

The Summit is intended to identify what we know now and what we still need to learn in order to accelerate the development, evaluation, translation, implementation, and scaling up of comprehensive care, services, and supports for persons with dementia, families, and other caregivers. The Summit is focused on research that is needed to improve quality of person-and family-centered care and outcomes across care settings, including quality of life and the lived experience of persons with dementia and their caregivers.

 

KAER Toolkit — Detecting Cognitive Impairment

The Gerontological Society of America recently released a new resource — KAER Toolkit: 4-Step Process to Detecting Cognitive Impairment and Earlier Diagnosis of Dementia.

The goal of the model is to help primary care providers achieve greater awareness of cognition in older adults, increase detection of cognitive impairment, earlier diagnostic evaluation and referrals for education and supportive community services for persons with dementia and their family caregivers.

Home safety checklist for a person with Alzheimer’s

Help make home safer for a person with Alzheimer’s disease with a room-by-room checklist to alert you to potential hazards and help you record any changes you need to make.

Keep in mind that it may not be necessary to make all the suggested changes and that you will need to re-evaluate home safety periodically as behavior and abilities change.

Use this checklist to look for hazards in the following locations:

  • Entryway
  • Kitchen
  • Bedroom
  • Bathroom
  • Living room
  • Laundry room
  • Garage/shed/basement

Find the checklist on the ADEAR website and share this information with others

What to do when a person living with Alzheimer’s disease hides things

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may start rummaging or searching through cabinets, drawers, closets, the refrigerator, and other places where things are stored.

He or she also may hide items around the house. This behavior can be annoying or even dangerous for the person, caregiver, or family members.

Here are some tips to help cope with this behavior:

  • Keep the person with Alzheimer’s from going into unused rooms. This limits his or her rummaging through and hiding things.
  • Search the house to learn where the person often hides things. Once you find these places, check them often, out of sight of the person.
  • Keep all trash cans covered or out of sight. People with Alzheimer’s may not remember the purpose of the container and may rummage through it.
  • Check trash containers before you empty them, in case something has been hidden there or thrown away by accident.

Learn more about rummaging and hiding in Alzheimer’s disease.

10 Things Caregivers Can Do to Help Their Loved One with Dementia During a Hospital Stay

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a big job, but when a loved one with dementia is hospitalized, many new challenges appear.

By Natalie M. Bruck, BS.  (I am a Physician Assistant student at Rush University with anticipated graduation in December 2018.  I wrote this blog because I find that caregivers are an incredibly important part of the team to care for persons living with dementia.)

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a big job, but when a loved one with dementia is hospitalized, many new challenges appear. Research has shown that individuals with dementia who are hospitalized have an increased risk of developing complications during their hospital visit and tend to have longer hospital stays compared to patients without dementia. Fortunately, you, the caregiver, can do many things to improve a hospital stay for your loved one living with dementia.  Here are 10 things you can do:

1.) Come Prepared

For planned hospital stays, you should bring important medical information such as a list of medications and allergies, contact information for their health care providers and copies of advanced directives. This will allow for a smooth hospital stay and the health care team will have all the information they need to provide the best care. In addition to medical information, bringing changes of clothes, toiletries and familiar objects from home will allow for a more comfortable stay at the hospital.

While it may seem challenging, there are ways to prepare for an unexpected emergency room trip. It may be helpful to pack a bag with clothing, toiletries and important health information which can be kept in a closet at your home, but is ready to use if a loved one needs to go to the emergency room suddenly. Being prepared will allow you to grab a bag quickly and head to the hospital without worrying that you forgot something important.

2.)    Communication with Hospital Staff

Good communication with the hospital staff is important. You should be prepared to provide a description of your loved one’s medical condition and describe what is “normal” for them.  The care team then can identify any changes in your loved one’s condition that may indicate that something is wrong.

3.)    Bring Familiar Items from Home

Hospitals can be stressful and unfamiliar environments for patients with dementia. A family member or caregiver being present with the patient at all times can be comforting. Bringing items from home that are familiar to the patient such as a blanket, sweater, music or movies can make your loved one feel at ease and in an environment that is similar to their home.

4.)    Minimize Background Noise

Hospitals can be noisy places which can make patients with dementia feel agitated or anxious. Minimizing background noise during times of stress or agitation can be helpful. You can ask the nursing staff to lower the volume on any noisy machines and also keep the television at a low volume. You also can request a private room which can make it a quiet, more familiar environment for your loved one.

5.)    Organize a Team

When a loved one is in the hospital, gather your family and friends in order to create a  support team. A team can limit stress on the patient, family and friends. Having one person in charge of sending updates to family members on the person with dementia’s condition. Make sure that family members look out for one another and no one is feeling overwhelmed.

6.)    Talk to a Health Care Provider Immediately if Something Changes

While health care providers know which medical treatments are the best for their patients, no one knows your loved one better than you. Because you know him or her the best, help health care providers by letting them know about any changes that are not typical for your loved one. Changes can often be normal, but in many cases can be a sign of something more serious.

7.)    Avoid Longer Stays and Unnecessary Treatments

If your loved one is scheduled for surgery, ask their health care provider what you can do to shorten their hospital stay. Sometimes, you may be able to have separate appointments before their surgery which can shorten the amount of time they spend in the hospital. For patients with dementia, make their stay as short as possible to prevent complications and get them back to their normal routine. Also, be sure to ask their healthcare provider about anesthesia and what procedures are being done. Knowing what health care activities are taking place will help you look out for any side effects, changes or complications.

8.)    Be Aware of “Elderspeak”

Many caregivers, both family members and hospital staff, may talk in elderspeak. Elderspeak is language that uses simple vocabulary, changes in tone, changes in pitch and inappropriate terms of endearment. While many people may think that calling patients, “honey,” or, “sweetie,” could be comforting, the patient may feel upset, annoyed or looked down upon. Elderspeak can be upsetting for patients and may make them agitated and angry. If you encounter family members, friends or staff using elderspeak, don’t be afraid to speak up for your loved one.

9.)    Remember to Take Care of Yourself

Being in the hospital can be stressful. As your loved one’s caregiver, you need to take care of yourself. Remember to take frequent breaks and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Having other family members visit is helpful.  Taking shifts also can ease some of the stress.

10.)  Know Appropriate Follow Up Care

When your loved one is released from the hospital, make sure you and the care team have scheduled follow up appointments and tests. Make sure you are comfortable with this plan, and bring up any questions or concerns you may have regarding your loved one’s care.

Hospital stays for anyone can be quite stressful, and when an individual with dementia is hospitalized it adds a level of complexity which can lead to medical complications. Fortunately, caregivers and family members can do several things to make their loved one’s hospital stay easier, more enjoyable and safer for everyone.

Sources

[1] Bail K., Goss J., Draper B., Berry H., Karmel R., Gibson D. The cost of hospital-acquired complications for older people with and without dementia; a retrospective cohort study. BMC Health Services Research. 2015; 15:91.

[2] Fick D., Foreman M. Consequences of not recognizing delirium superimposed on dementia in hospitalized elderly individuals. Journal of Gerontol Nurs. 2000 Jan;26(1):30-40.

[3] Going to the Hospital: Tips for Dementia Caregivers. National Institute of Aging. 2017. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/going-hospital-tips-dementia-caregivers

[4] Williams KN., Herman R., Gajewski B., Wilson K. Elderspeak Communication: Impact on Dementia Care. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias. 2008; 24. 11-20.