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“Something’s Not Right with Mary.”

Monthly Archives: July 2019

“Something’s Not Right with Mary.”

Sad senior woman and nurse

Sometimes the aide is the first to know.

Dementia is a slow process, and changes can be very subtle at first. Things that have been changing very gradually over time may escape the family’s notice, and sometimes it’s just plain denial…but long-term care providers can use their outsider’s perspective and experience with multiple patients to spot the signs that everyone else has missed.

Signs like:

  • Atypical or worsening memory loss
  • Difficulty stringing tasks together
  • Changes in longstanding habits or pastimes
  • Confusion regarding faces and places
  • Increased difficulty with reading or loss of vocabulary
  • Unusual displays of temper or loss of emotional control
  • Apathy, depression or withdrawal
  • Expression of frustration, such as “I think I’m losing my mind.”

While the ordinary aging process may result in one or more of these tendencies, and everyone can be absent-minded sometimes, a cluster of such behaviors is a good reason to recommend the patient be checked by a gerontologist to confirm the diagnosis.

A full medical examination can rule out other factors such as sleep issues, drug side effects or interactions, nutritional deficiencies, or disease. Some medical conditions, such as chronic kidney disease, can cause symptoms that mimic dementia if left untreated.

5% to 7% of seniors begin exhibiting symptoms of dementia by their early 60s, with the prevalence rising as patients age. Study findings vary, but indicate that between 25% and 50% of those over 85 will show symptoms.

The home health aide or personal care aide can be an invaluable counselor to the patient’s loved ones, persuading them to get the patient examined.

This checklist from the Alzheimer Association can be printed out and brought to the appointment to help the doctor make a proper diagnosis.

While there currently is no cure for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, there’s a lot of promising research going on, with tantalizing links being found to gut bacteria, gum disease, and even sleep deprivation.

Well-known and controllable risk factors include:

  • Lack of exercise, both physical and mental
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Tobacco use
  • High cholesterol
  • Social isolation
  • Poor-quality, low-stimulus institutional environments (“hospital-induced delirium”).

If you care for an elderly patient with these risk factors or symptoms, speak up—you can make things better for everyone if the problem is addressed as soon as possible.

It has been conclusively shown that intervention tactics can slow the progression of the disease, and that caregivers can be a part of the prevention process.

Bottom line: Health care workers are in a position to make a huge difference in the dementia-prone patient’s life.

Next month we’ll discuss what the health care aide can do to help their dementia-challenged patients.

Contact us today for more information.  

Four Risk Factors that can Ruin Your Day… or Your Life

Hazardous Waste Container

Rushing, Frustration, Fatigue, Complacency

These are the four top reasons why rules get ignored and accidents happen—whether at home, at work, or in care settings. Last month we talked about how they can affect the elderly patient.

But the young, healthy caregiver is also at risk—in the medical care setting, there are hazards of every kind. Just ask around…you’ll hear plenty of stories about career-ending accidents caused by these four risk factors.

Let’s break them down:

  • Rushing: It’s no surprise that we all have too much to do and too little time to get it done. But rushing makes surprisingly little difference. Try an experiment: Drive to work the way you usually do, and the next day, drive to work while strictly adhering to the speed limit. See how little time you actually save, at the cost of stress, sweat, and higher risk of accident or traffic citation. Then slow down! On the road, and on the job. Work smoothly, efficiently, and at a pace you can sustain all day.

  • Frustration: Rules stink! They just get in the way of you doing your job. Except every rule in place is there because something bad happened. And not just once—enough times that someone had to sit down and figure out a procedure to protect the patient, the caregiver, or the facility from expense or liability.
    Put yourself in your supervisor’s shoes, and then take a deep breath and follow the procedure!
    Of course sometimes rules become obsolete. If a seemingly useless rule is extremely counterproductive, then make your case to your supervisor. Form a complaint committee with your coworkers, if you all agree it’s a serious issue—management will pay more attention to a group.
    If the direct approach makes you uncomfortable, then have everyone use the suggestion box, or even write anonymous emails to the company. But follow the rule until it’s changed. If the rule remains, chances are it’s there for a very good reason.

  • Fatigue: The shifts are long, and the work is physical and tiring. So, monitor yourself. If your concentration is slipping and you are losing focus, do what you can to protect your body and refresh your mind. Get a drink of water, do some deep breathing, and most important of all, lean on your team. Help your friends manage the workload, be there for each other, and they’ll be there for you.
    Your company may be able to help. Good management will help their teams cope by offering shift changes, a little time off, smart break rules, or even company-provided health and support services. Use all the resources available to stay healthy, alert, and safe.

  • Complacency: The most dangerous risk factor of all! Once you get to know the routine, it’s too easy to cut corners, work distracted, become careless around danger, or get sloppy. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
    Again, use your experience to your advantage. Be an example to the newer staff of how to get the job done safely, efficiently, with attention to detail and care for your patients’ needs. Set an example that others can follow, and they will. Leaders set the tone, and anyone can be a leader.

Bottom line: Safety is all about respect—respect for rules and human nature.

Contact us today for more information.