A loved one, suffering from mental impairment, wanders off. He can’t find his way home and can’t remember his address.
Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s constantly worry about them stepping out the door without their knowledge. Wandering is a symptom of Alzheimer’s, one of the dementia diseases. Six in 10 people diagnosed with dementia leave the house and don’t how to get back at least once, some, many times.
Dementia progresses in the following stages:
- Stage 1: Everyone starts here with no dementia at all, no signs or symptoms.
- Stage 2: The patient demonstrates very slight cognitive weakness.
- Stage 3: In this stage, symptoms may include escalated forgetfulness, under performance at work, speech problems and trouble focusing on simple tasks.
- Stage 4: This is called early-stage dementia. It can be identified during a medical exam and usually lasts 2 years. Signs include short-term memory loss, inability to manage finances and the individual can’t travel alone.
- Stage 5: In mid-stage dementia and the patient needs assistance to do daily activities and most of their short-term memory is gone.
- Stage 6: In this stage, the patient forgets the names of their family members, suffers from delusions, anxiousness and may be easily agitated.
- Stage 7: Late-stage dementia takes away the person’s ability to talk and they need help with most activities. Twenty-four-hour care is required.
Additional symptoms you may see during the course of the disease include the inability to concentrate, taking longer than normal to accomplish a task; losing track of dates, seasons or time; vision impairment and driving problems. The memory-impaired person often puts things in places where they don’t belong and then accuses others of stealing from them.
That can be a great deal to handle for the loved ones caring for those with Alzheimer’s, especially as the dementia progresses. At some point they may need to turn to memory care, which is specialized support for those with dementia.
Research has shown that care coordination, education and training benefit both residents living with dementia and their loved ones, says Megan Reynolds, corporate memory care director for Leisure Care, the management company of Murano Senior Living.
“People living with Alzheimer’s benefit from regular participation in meaningful activities. These activities can reduce depression, increase feelings of competence and improve relationships with family members,” Reynolds says. “Everyone involved has a better quality of life.”
Early intervention by medical health professionals in a memory care setting can improve the journey. For example, Reynolds says that Opal by Leisure Care, their signature memory care program, allows staff to do the following:
- Encourage social interaction so the residents can enjoy their passions and retain their personal preferences.
- Enrich lives through music and art, which is a powerful way to connect especially after communication becomes difficult.
- Be physically active. When the residents move more, they’re better able to help with daily living tasks like bathing and dressing.
- Offer choices. In the Opal program, “54 Things About Me” gives residents the chance to make choices, which supports their individuality and independence. These “things” are unique to each individual. For example, do you put on one sock and then the other one or do you put on one sock and then a shoe?
“Each person does this and many other routines differently, so to meet each individual’s needs, we interview family members and document what we learn in ‘54 Things About Me,’” says Reynolds.
- Promote good nutrition. Opal neighborhoods support relaxed, unhurried dining in well-lit dining rooms that feel like home. The nourishing food provided stimulates the person’s senses and appetite.
- Find creative ways to communicate. Opal Life Stories, an internal document, is used with new residents. It describes the individual’s life history, hobbies, careers, spiritual affiliations, pets, marriage(s), children, personality traits and more. With this information, the staff creates care plans and integrates the residents into the activities that provide meaning and interest to them.
The pandemic has prohibited many suffering with Alzheimer’s-related dementia from moving into memory care. Reynolds says several of them suffered significant consequences from being kept home and away from care, services, recreation, exercise and contact with family and friends.
When professional caregivers remind the residents to eat and drink, help them find the right activities and assist in maintaining their normal routine, they are less anxious and maintain a better quality of life.
Murano Senior Living in the heart of First Hill offers independent living, assisted living and specialized memory care with no buy-in requirements and elevated amenities like PrimeFit. Contact our Murano team to connect you with a local dementia support group.