Undiagnosed Dementia: The Risk of Not Knowing

 

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We so often wait until there’s a problem before we take action on something serious. We tell ourselves that no news is good news. It’s scary to go in for a check up, because, what if something really is wrong? We don’t need that kind of stress. We ignore warning signs or rationalize them away. We don’t want things to change.

Unfortunately, for many seniors in America, the risk of not knowing can be too great. Living with undiagnosed dementia can lead to a number of potentially dangerous scenarios and unsafe behavior that can be easily prevented and taken precaution against.

Research shows that Undiagnosed adults with Alzheimer’s were more than two times as likely to undertake actions that put themselves in danger than seniors who had been formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Age 65 is a good year to begin regular check ups (perhaps yearly) to be safe, not just to be reassured about undiagnosed Alzheimer’s but a good number of other conditions that become increasingly common in elders.

Examples of “unsafe behavior” may include (but are not limited to):

-Forgetting to take other medicines, or forgetting you have already taken them.

-Neglecting duties to manage important finances.

-Accidents while driving due to unawareness of surroundings.

 

These problems often occur because a senior is not aware that they have the problem at all. And that allows these kinds of issues to happen at their worst. Seniors who have been diagnosed with dementia often implement precautions into their daily routines meant to help reminding them they need to stay on task, take certain medications, and avoid potentially threatening or dangerous scenarios. Or at least have help (hired or otherwise) around to care for and cover for them.

If you are an adult child of a senior who is showing signs of dementia or extreme changes in behavior, it may be time to have a talk with them. They may or may not be aware of these changes themselves, or they may be afraid to take the sometimes inconvenient next step in going through with the lifestyle alterations that handling dementia and Alzheimer’s will require.

How To Find Alzheimer’s Support Groups

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Support is out there. You might be amazed for find how many people in your community share the same struggle with Alzheimer’s and dementia and seek an outlet to offer and receive support from others. Across the country, countless seniors find these support groups helpful in numerous ways. They provide emotional comfort, social interaction, and even medical tips from those who have been in the fight for a longer time than you.
Professionals recommend support groups to every senior facing the effects of this unsettling condition.

What Are Alzheimer’s Support Groups?

Depending on how the one in your community has been organized, they may occur weekly, monthly, or bimonthly. They are open to anyone to join and are almost always free of charge to attend. Typical length of a meeting is two hours, where anywhere between six and twenty people will share there experience, story, and advice to anyone who will listen.

Who will you find at Alzheimer’s Support Groups?

Usually, support groups are led by authorities on dementia illnesses, such as medical doctors, highly experienced caregivers, or social workers with therapeutic training. The people who attend are often elderly affected by the disease in early stages trying to learn how to cope or how to prepare. Adult children may attend to educate themselves on their senior loved one’s condition. Additionally, caretakers often join to get tips for how best to assist the seniors with Alzheimer’s that they serve on a daily basis.

 

What Happens At Alzheimer’s Support Group Meetings?

Sometimes the format of the support group will vary. It may be a formal event with a talk being given by a renown doctor or other professional to impart wisdom and share the message of hope. Other times, it can be a therapeutic group session where attendees can share their experience and get to know the others relationally.

While the Internet is always a great place to get answers to questions, many people find support group to be a great place to get answers to the questions you can’t find online. Things that only people who know where you’re coming from can answer with genuine empathy and inspiring hope. Caregivers can use it as an outlet for the stress that the job might be causing them, getting encouragement and guidance from others in their shoes.

 

Where to Find An Alzheimer’s Support Group

Support groups are typically organized by the Alzheimer’s Association, and held at churches, chapels, hospitals and other local venues. Apart from their website, you may ask your family doctor whether any effective support groups have been organized in the area that you may be referred to.

 

Christmas with Alzheimer’s

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The holidays are the time of year where families make it a priority to get together and celebrate. However, for millions of Americans, the cheer of the holidays becomes a little complicated when an elder loved one has Alzheimer’s. It can be painful and disheartening for members of the extended family to become slowly forgotten by someone who has been so dear to them throughout their lives. When the differences and changes in a senior’s personality become apparent, the question for everyone becomes how best to handle a Christmas with Alzheimer’s.

There are still ways that a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be included and participate in the family cheer. Some adjustments or special accommodations may need to be provided in order to allow the family congregation to go smoothly.

The first thing that needs to be done is preparation.

A bustling house full of merry and rowdy guests may be overwhelming for seniors with dementia, depending on which stage of Alzheimer’s your relative is in. If you serve as your aging parent’s primary caregiver, then you will be well acquainted with their specific comfort levels for participating in daily events, and make plans accordingly.

If you are not your senior loved one’s routine caregiver, it is best to have a talk with the person who assumes that duty, to gage how best to accommodate your loved one spending Christmas with Alzheimer’s. Understand their limitations of the extent to which he or she can be involved with the activities and conversations with others at the dinner table or socializing in the living room, etc.

It is imperative to make certain that the other family guests are on the same page regarding your senior’s Alzheimer’s condition, and understands their role in helping and being supportive. Take the time to have a call or send an email to the extended family coming for Christmas, so everyone has an idea of what to expect and how to behave to avoid any embarrassing incidents of frustration or confusion among the family.

Ensuring that everyone is prepared and educated about their senior loved one’s dementia will relieve anxiety, stress, and uncertainty for everyone involved in the family reunion, and help with better enjoyment of the holiday. It is key to try and act as normal as possible, and allow everyone to be relaxed and comfortable. If any outbursts or episodes are likely to occur for a family member with advanced Alzheimer’s, then make certain to have a plan for mitigating the situation as casually as possible. If there is a comforting place where your senior having a panic episode can go to calm down, then make sure the room is ready and easily accessible at all times. Incidents of confusion can be more likely to occur when the house is busy and filled with people an Alzheimer’s senior may not recognized. It may be further awkward for elders to experience many unfamiliar people directing a lot of attention on them.

Try to plan for the possibility of hiccups when scheduling your reunion. It is best to make your schedule as dynamic as possible, flexible enough to set aside time to attend to any difficulties that the stress of spending Christmas with Alzheimer’s may bring. The party may have to slow down at times, but it is worth it to everyone who wants to do all that is necessary to be inclusive of a struggling loved one with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Myths Exposed

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Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease increasingly affecting the elderly community in the United States and around the world. While much research is being done and newer treatments are being invested in, there is still uncertainty about Alzheimer’s disease among doctors regarding the cause and cure for Alzheimer’s. This uncertainty has lead to speculations that have turned into popular Alzheimer’s myths that are not proven facts. With many articles floating around the Internet and well-meaning misinformed messengers, it can be hard to know what to believe regarding Alzheimer’s disease information.

 

Here is a list of 4 Alzheimer’s myths you need to know that must be exposed:

 

Myth 1. Alzheimer’s just affects elderly people.
Although most cases of Alzheimer’s disease occur in seniors over the age of 65 years old, there are still substantial instances of people as young as their 30s or 40s developing the disease. Just under 10% of Alzheimer’s cases are from these younger demographics.

 

Myth 2. Still having a good memory means you don’t have Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s first affects short term memory and the ability to learn and retain new information. Just because a senior loved one can still vividly recall their oldest, dearest memories, does not mean that Alzheimer’s has not taken root. Look for quirkiness in recalling recent events, rather than forgetting details for long ago when watching for Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Myth 3. Alzheimer’s victims are unaware of their symptoms.

The signs of Alzheimer’s do not go unnoticed by most seniors. A failing memory is hard to ignore, and it can be very concerning. The disruptions of memory trouble may lead seniors to become afraid that memory lapses will lead to bad accidents like leaving the stove on, and seniors may feel that they cannot trust themselves. Some days will be better than others for recollection, so a senior must develop an effective plan with caregivers and establish good communication.

 

Myth 4. Smarter, More Educated Seniors Lose Memory Faster.

Higher education and mental stimulation actually help the health of the brain and assist in preserving memory for longer. Staying active and working cognitive activities into the day, using basic problem solving skills can go a long way in preserving a healthy brain for longer.  Wealthier, more educated seniors may have the opportunity and capability to recognize signs of Alzheimer’s disease “sooner,” but Alzheimer’s is no respecter of persons.

 

Unfortunately, memory is in fact an inevitable part of the aging process. Every five years after the age of 65, a senior’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s doubles. Although the likelihood of memory loss does increase with age, that is no guarantee that memory loss will occur. Many senior live with healthy minds decades into their retirement years. A great precaution for avoiding Alzheimer’s disease is to adhere to simple health strategies such as proper diet and exercise, and to educate yourself with the various Alzheimer’s facts as they become discovered through new research, as well as to caution yourself against the Alzheimer’s myths by doing a little research of your own.

 

 

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Does a Good Night Sleep Prevent Alzheimer’s?

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New studies are suggesting that quality sleep can be a big factor in helping to “detoxify” a healthy brain, and keep the development Alzheimer’s in seniors at bay. The obligations of daily living for adults can make it difficult to get the proper amount of rest advised by sleep doctors—a full 8 hours. However, getting a full night’s rest may offer more than just beauty sleep, but also healthy brain sleep to prevent Alzheimer’s in seniors later in life.

 

Research conducted at the University of Berkeley has shown that disturbed sleep and insufficient amounts of sleep may be contributors to the development of Alzheimer’s disease in seniors. By using brain scans on seniors with and without Alzheimer’s, University scientists determined that a lack of sleep caused a build up of what they call “garbage proteins” in the brain that directly affect the quality of mental cognition.

 

Understanding that Alzheimer’s disease was a well-known cause of disturbed sleep, these Berkeley researches set out to determine if the opposite proved true as well—can bad sleep cause Alzheimer’s? Scientists noticed a mysterious toxic protein forming in the brains of seniors with habits for poor sleep. Normally, our body uses sleep to metabolize this pesky protein until it evaporates, ceasing to be a threat. However, when sleep is not allowed to do its job, this toxic protein phenomenon may accumulate over time and do damage to a healthy mind. In other words, when ignoring our need for sleep by trying to be productive, we are inadvertently leaving a mess inside our own minds.

 

When the brains in animals were evaluated before human testing began, similar connections were discovered with sleep deprivation and mental cognition. This garbage protein was found to accumulate in the brains of mice as well, causing their brains to shrink and decay, like Alzheimer’s does to a human mind.

 

These findings are not completely conclusive, and further study is required, however, in understanding the mechanisms and proteins involved in this terrible memory loss disease, we may be one step closer to curing it soon. While it is tempting to ignore your human need for rest in order to fit in more work or recreation into your day, keep in mind that sleep is just as vital to your health as a good diet or exercise. Do your best to hit the pillow early, because a good night sleep may prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

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Adult Care

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While Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are still in their earliest stages in seniors, you may find your senior loved one can still function and perform daily tasks independently. Seniors at the beginning of their struggle with Alzheimer’s may still effectively socialize, carry out their jobs, and drive. This is the stage where your duties of adult care for your affected senior are the least demanding. But it is no less tragic to know that worse phases of the illness are yet to come, and to watch your aging parent’s behavior and trademark personality slowly change as their mental health deteriorates.

 

Alzheimer’s is a very frustrating disease because it is currently unpreventable and incapable of being slowed or stopped in affected seniors. The best thing you as their caregiver can do is to educate yourself as much as possible about their dementia, so that you can know what to expect and how to handle eventual troubling symptoms as they arise in later stages of the disease.

 

“Early stage” Alzheimer’s is characterized by mild obstruction to a senior’s thinking and learning abilities but can still actively participate in conversation and activities, with a few hiccups perhaps. Alzheimer can often go undetected for a while during the early stages, as elders may conscious enough simply dismiss weak symptoms as “brain farts” or having “a senior moment.” The beginning phase of Alzheimer’s disease may last a few years before worsening to more noticeable and tragic effects.

 

Life After An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

 

Once you get confirmation from a doctor that a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, your approach to caring for them may be more of a partnership than extensive caregiving duties. You may be helping them remember where they were in the story they were telling, or reminding them to take their medication, without having to heavily involve yourself in every aspect of their daily routine.

 

Being able to go slow at the early stages of disease gives you a grace period where you can work with your aging parent, spouse, or extended family on planning for the long-term care strategy for a senior in later stages of the disease when the effects of the disease worsen. Not every family is in a position to provide the extensive amount of caregiving, monitoring, and medical attention that an advanced Alzheimer’s senior needs. Careers and education can be obstacles keeping an adult child from providing 24/7 round-the-clock care for a senior. Working with your aging parent in the early stages gives you ample preparation time to plan and get family finances in order for arranging the best-fitting senior care coverage.

 

Ways You Can Be Helpful In Early Alzheimer’s Stages

 

As we mentioned before, a senior at the beginning of their struggle with Alzheimer’s may only need some light assistance with daily tasks and obligations. Ways you can be a help to a senior with dementia may include:

  • Keeping track of medicines and reminding when to take them
  • Helping to manage their money or pay bills
  • Assisting with organizing events or outings
  • Finding misplaced items around the house
  • Keeping track of important phone numbers for them

 

Your Caregiving Attitude For Early Stage Alzheimer’s

 

Keeping a positive and encouraging attitude for a senior during early stage Alzheimer’s  is key to their peace of mind and reducing their stress during this rough time. You will have to muster up a greater degree of patience and slow pacing for activities than you are used to when handling a senior loved one’s affairs. As a caregiver, it is important that you remain supportive and do not make them feel like a burden. Then again, if you do not feel you are capable of providing the extent of care they need, and do view your new duties as a burden, it may be best to consider placing your senior in the professional hands of a memory care facility.

 

Not everyone is cut out for caregiving, and if you feel you are not capable of doing it with a loving and sincere attitude, it may be better to leave it to skilled nurses who have made a career out of it. Letting guilt make your decision to be a caregiver against your will can lead to an atmosphere of resentment in a home, which is not healthy for anyone in this rough time.

 

Frustration and stress can be avoided by preparing as soon as possible, and not putting off planning for senior care until it suddenly becomes imperative. Evaluating your options for the best care is not a good decision to rush. It takes time and research to get it right. Ask your doctor any questions you have about how Alzheimer’s disease may affect specific aspects of your family’s unique lifestyle, and make the needed adjustments for a smooth caregiving environment with all the family working together as a team.

 

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What is Alzheimers

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What is Alzheimers, What Are Alzheimer’s Hallucinations? 

 

When a senior has Alzheimer’s hallucinations, that senior may see, hear, feel, smell, taste things that aren’t really there. Sometimes hallucinations terrorize a senior with cognitive disorders, other times hallucinations just confuse or mislead them. Often times, dementia-induced hallucinations take the form of visions of people, images, or objects from a senior’s past.

 

Hallucinations are caused by Alzheimer’s disease as it slowly deteriorates and alters a healthy brain. False perceptions brought on by hallucinations usually don’t develop until the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease in seniors. When you suspect that a senior loved on in your care is having hallucinations, it is important to arrange a doctor’s visit for evaluation to be sure that hallucinations have not been brought on by other possible causes. Other ailments that could potentially bring on hallucinations in seniors include Schizophrenia, dehydration, alcohol abuse, and complications with medicine dosages.

 

How to Treat Hallucinations

 

Scheduling a medical evaluation can determine what stage of the disease a senior is in, and what may be the best medical treatment for an Alzheimer’s senior at that point. Usually, the initial treatment involves a non-drug approach, such as vitamins or diet change. But when these methods fail to alleviate cognition impairment, medications may be prescribed, Doctors can prescribe antipsychotic medications to seniors with developed cases of Alzheimer’s.

 

 

Handling Hallucination Episodes

 

There are strategies for coping with hallucinations for seniors who don’t whose hallucinations do not seem to hinder their ability to carry out daily life. If the hallucinations are upsetting and inhibiting to their comfort, security, happiness, or ability to socialize and interact with others, you may need to come up with a set of calming words or reassuring touches to re-stabilize an Alzheimer’s senior’s peace of mind.

 

Respond to hallucination episodes in a supportive manner and comforting words. When a frightened episode occurs in response to a hallucination, offering up quick distractions may be an effective manner to call attention away from their false sensory perceptions.

 

Modifying a hallucinating senior’s environment may be helpful in restoring peace to their living space. Objects that are prone to set them off might be best hidden or moved. Home items that make loud noises or startling sounds should be relocated to areas where a senior with Alzheimer’s can be better monitored.

 

 

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Dementia Care

 

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When a senior in your care is diagnosed with or is showing symptoms of dementia, it can be a very devastating and frustrating time for everyone in the home, and it is time to look for dementia care.

If you feel called to assume the duties of caregiving for a senior loved one with dementia, we have some helpful guidelines for handling some of the most common areas of difficulty. Here are some suggested solutions for the best types of caregiving for dementia.

 

Aggression

 

Dementia is a disease that changes the brain in many ways, altering emotional responses and perception of events. This can lead to communication difficulties and behavioral problems for a senior with dementia. Symptoms of emotional instability include amplified anger, sadness, confusion, and paranoia. Mood swings and aggressive outbursts may suddenly occur in response to physical or emotional discomfort. A senior with dementia showing violence or hostility may be acting out of fear and desperation in response to a feeling of helplessness.

 

To handle increased aggression from a senior with dementia in your care, try to calmly identify the cause of their aggression, attempt to understand their reasoning for feeling so suddenly angry (even if it does not make sense to you or seem reasonable). Peacefully restoring order to an aggressive situation will require a lot of patience and control on the part of the caregiver. If possible, try to reassuringly shift their attention onto something else besides what has made them upset. Make certain that a confused senior loved one is not threatening or presenting a danger to anyone else.

Whatever you do, don’t respond to aggression with more aggression or aggravation. Don’t attempt to forcibly restrain someone unless there is no choice.  Mitigate the situation with as much respect as possible; avoid acting dominant, barking at them with sharp words like “No!”

 

Confusion

 

A senior with dementia may abruptly lose his or her sense of place, asking a question like “where am I?” or declaring “I don’t live here!” In their minds, they want to return to a place they feel they have control. A senior with dementia may express a desire to go home, even though he or she is already safe at home.

 

Home for them might be some place long ago and far away. But you must do your best to tenderly remind them that home is “here” now. Proving simple explanations or keeping photos on hand can help to explain. Speak clearly, and repeat yourself. Don’t assume you have been understood. Sometimes your explanations for sudden questions like “When can we leave?” can be answered with what is called a therapeutic fib. Sometimes just receiving any answer or reassurance is enough to keep questions of dementia content.

 

It is unwise to always respond to confused questioning with lengthy explanations or reasons to these questions. Your explanations may add more confusion and more questions, further detracting everyone from the current activity. Do your best to not give frustrated responses either. Showing hostility can breed more hostility.

 

Impaired Judgment

 

A senior with dementia may be suddenly prone to unfounded accusations. A senior might go into hysterics claiming someone has stolen some possession that has been gone to him or her for decades. Deductive reasoning and basic math skills may suffer as well. Symptoms like these are part of the unfortunate deterioration of brain cells, affecting their judgment capabilities.

 

A way to assist seniors suffering from poor judgment is to help them become more organized, so that they posses a sense of place and where things belong. If a senior with mild dementia attempts to balance their checkbook or calculate a tip at dinner, it may be helpful for you to check their math when you can. Passively monitoring their behavior can be more effective than accusing them of being incompetent and revoking their privileges to manage their own affairs all together. This may result in an atmosphere of resentment and contention in the home.

 

Assisted Living Options

 

During later stages of dementia, sometimes it is not possible for a family member to offer the degree of caregiving for dementia that a senior loved one needs. Then a senior may require the more specialized care of trained professionals. Assisted living facilities and memory care communities provide a safe environment that cares for a senior’s health and monitoring needs. Research your options for senior care and memory care facilities near you to ensure that your senior gets the care and attention they need.

 

 

 

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Care Provider

 

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Benefits of Routines

 

Starting your duties as a caregiver for a senior loved one can go smoothly with the proper amount of structuring and time management. Maybe you have found yourself overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you have to balance as a care provider and don’t know how to accomplish everything you need to do in order for your caregiving and housekeeping to be successful.

 

Creating a caregiving routine and following through with it is the best thing to do in order to make the best of your time. At first it takes some discipline to stick with a schedule, but once you commit to it, you more often actually carry out all the things you need to do. Without a structured schedule, it can be easy to let the duties and errands you have been meaning to get around to accumulate while little gets done.

 

Routines contribute to the piece of mind for everybody in the home, but for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia, a sound routine is the key to sanity. Creating a sense of organization for seniors with cognitive impairment helps them prepare for the events of daily activities without being confused or shaken by unfamiliar surprises. For many seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia, routines are comforting and pleasant rather than boring or monotonous.

 

Work Together In Creating the Schedule

 

You will have to coordinate your routine in congruence with the unique needs of your senior loved one. This organization will help to focus on the matters that are really a priority for your household and the senior in your care. When you both understand the routine, it can help you to motivate each other and keep one another on track regarding daily events.

 

It may not be necessary to concoct an elaborate calendar with a written timeslot for every hour of the day, but it can be very helpful to write out some form of checklist or posted-note reminders for the weekly schedule to assist in making the routine something tangible to follow and monitor progress. Making segmented plans for the day/week can help ensure that the tasks with the highest priority are attended to in their right place.

 

Plan Ahead

 

It is a wise thing to plan ahead when you can. There are sure to be windows where a daughter’s dance recital or an anniversary dinner will require your attention to be called away from your caregiving duties. So be certain to prepare for these special occasions by reaching out and arranging for some trusted help while you can’t be around.

 

Sometimes the unexpected occurs to the caregiving routine, and things happen that aren’t on the schedule. It may be good to insert a little wiggle room in to some parts of the schedule where you may foresee a greater possibility of interruption or delay.

 

 

Flexibility is Okay

 

Creating a routine doesn’t mean making yourself completely subservient to a micromanaged schedule, but should serve as a tool to give you as a caregiver and the senior in your care some relief. Sometimes a plan will need adjustments and flexibility is okay when special moments or unique opportunities arise. However, it is best not to make a habit of veering from the routine and being indulgent, otherwise the schedule loses it its purpose.

 

Make sure that the caregiving routine you create is something that is enjoyable and actually attainable for both of you. Do not simply construct a daunting idealistic schedule that can only work in a perfect world. You will just end up frustrated and exhausted to trying to complete it. Along with meeting the needs of the senior in your care, it is important to schedule time for yourself too and the things that make you happy. This will help you to be in better spirits and carry out your caregiving duties with greater enthusiasm.

How Much Change Is Good For Seniors with Alzheimer’s?

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When a senior loved one has fallen victim to a severely mentally deteriorating disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia, good caregivers often seek to make their living space as safe as possible. Sometimes well-meaning caregivers will change the entire arrangement of a home, swept up in removing hazards and adding locks to avoid accidents. However, caregivers must keep in mind that altering the environment of a senior with cognitive debilitations can also be very disorienting for them as well as helpful.  Not all change is good for seniors with Alzheimer’s.

 

Often times, a senior has lived in the same home for many years, and is still able to navigate through the house with a sort of muscle memory about the layout of their familiar environment. Rearranging the home all together may contribute to some subconscious confusion in addition to their hampered cognition, making it even harder to get around. It may be best to retain a familiar surrounding.

 

Depending on the severity of your loved one’s case, some adjustments may surely need to be made. If a senior with dementia is prone to wander off, then door alarms or other precautions may need to be installed. Also, if a senior generally kept a messy home when living independently, the mess and clutter may add to the confusion as well, and disorient a senior’s sense of space. An untidy environment may also increase the likelihood of trips and falls. So, it will be up to you to gauge the necessary balance between maintaining a comfortable familiar surrounding and reorganizing space for safety purposes.

 

If you feel that changes to your senior loved one’s environment are in fact needed, then it may be best to de-clutter or safety-proof a home gradually. An overnight reconstruction of an Alzheimer patient’s living space can be an overwhelming change; but selectively removing or reorganizing unnecessary items around the home over time can be beneficial.

 

For many seniors with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, routine is the key to sanity. It is often comforting and less mentally exerting to stay in a zone of sameness with fewer surprises.. Whenever you make a change or move something important to an elder in your care, try to be sure that they see you move their cane or bracelet or chair, so that it will register more easily in their mind, instead of coming off as a total surprise to discover later.

 

No one knows your loved one better than you do, so as their caregiver, try to figure out their own personal tolerance level for change when trying to craft an accommodating living space for their cognitive condition