Alzheimer’s Disease

by John Philip Green

Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer’s is a type of Dementia, with others being Lewy Body Dementia and Pick's disease. All are characterized by memory loss. Diseases such as Parkinson's and Huntington's can also cause Dementia.

How can the disease be diagnosed?

There are several tests to assess for Dementia such as:

  • CT scans
  • MRI scans
  • Laboratory testing
  • Physical examination
  • Neurological evaluation
  • Psychiatric evaluation

Multiple medications and medication interactions can cause Dementia-type symptoms such as confusion and memory loss.

What treatment options are available?

For most cases, there is no cure but there are medications that can help minimize symptoms caused by incurable conditions. About 10 percent of conditions that cause dementia, there is treatment available that can reverse it. Treatable conditions include; a brain tumour which can be operated on, normal pressure hydrocephalus and hypothyroidism. 

Dementia Coping & Communication Strategies

				Reminiscence Therapy
				

A psychotherapeutic technique in which self-esteem and personal satisfaction are restored, particularly in older persons, by encouraging patients to review past experiences of a pleasant nature.

Validation Method

It is a practical approach that helps reduce stress, enhance dignity and increase happiness.

Memory Care

Self-contained neighbourhoods in Continuing Care Retirement Communities specially designed to serve residents with dementia

Activities that Dementia Patients Can Still Enjoy

  • Gardening
  • Baking
  • Outings
  • Pet therapy
  • Gentle exercise
  • Hugs and tenderness
  • Art and music: for sensory stimulation, participation and calming

Although every Dementia patient is different, the one constant is increasing difficulty communicating. Some Dementia patients have a peaceful, happy outlook, even with memory loss. However, Individual assessments are necessary to determine strategies for:

  • Wandering
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Aggressive behavior

What to Ask Before Choosing a Nursing Home

  1. Does the facility offer a specialized Alzheimer's/Dementia program?
  2. Is there a nurse (RN or RPN) on staff? 24/7?
  3. What is the staff / patient ratio?
  4. What infection prevention measures are in place?
  5. What is the restraints protocol?
  6. How does the facility attempt to prevent falls and aid in patient recovery?
  7. What support is there for activities of daily living, such as adapted eating utensils and eating areas?

Good to Remember

It’s worse for the Dementia patient than it is for you. It is normal to experience emotions such as anger, helplessness and grief and adjusting to this new reality can be challenging. It is recommended that you be with family and friends during this tough time as the more support you and the patient gets, the better.


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