Dementia is not a disease, rather, it is a medical term used to describe a group of symptoms. Decline in cognitive function is the key feature. This decline may be manifested in thinking, reasoning, memory, problem solving, and speech. Other features that may occur are changes in behavior and personality. Dementia of the Alzheimer’s type is the most common of the 60 types of dementia. Two other main types of dementia are Vascular Dementia (VaD) and Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). According to The Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of death among all ages, and the 5th leading cause among those aged 65 and older. The greatest risk for getting Alzheimer’s type of dementia is advancing age. The average course from onset (the time of diagnosis) to death is 4-6 years. It is important to note that those with dementia have often been having symptoms long before a formal diagnosis is made. There is no known cause or cure at this time- treatment is limited. Over the next week I will be adding blog entries regarding Alzheimer’s and key information regarding the disease and caring for your Elders: especially as it pertains to organizing home care and potentially nursing facility long term care.
Home accidents and falls can have devastating physical and mental health ramifications for your Elder. The most simple of modifications can increase home safety exponentially. So read on and consider these points of assessment for the Elder you love.
We usually start by clearing pathways of excess clutter (please dispose of those 7 months worth of newspapers piled in various areas, and you are going to have to put those National Geographics in a box to enjoy later, not in a slippery pile in the hallway.) Ensure all hallways are well-lit as well. Electrical appliance & lamp cords need to be assessed for frays, brittleness and use of proper adapters when needed. Please change those ancient outlets that do not have three prongs so as not to have to use those adapters that do not fit well anyway, also change outlets in that may require GFIs.
Many seniors protest at this next one: remove all throw rugs! I know they match and look just right, but they are like poison to anyone with impaired vision and gait disturbance. Throw rugs can wrinkle and catch toes or walkers. Modify slippery surfaces like the shower stall or bathtub with rubber mats. Is there a shower or bath bench present? How about bathroom grab bars secured to a stud-not just screwed or nailed into drywall or plaster? And do NOT use the towel bar as a grab bar!
Cabinets can be modified to lower heights (or just move items to closer shelves only—nothing on those high shelves) to reduce accidents with stepstools [or the forbidden ladder] or reaching and subsequent imbalance. Are there railings at home entrances and on every stairway; should your Elder be using the stairs alone? Can your Elder safely care for their pet? The usual smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? Change the batteries on their birthday. Always consider personal emergency response system. I know I probably did not include every last area for assessment, but you get the idea.
Bathroom & kitchen and medication safety deserve their own posts so stay tuned….