Recently, King5 interviewed the Senior Vice President of Support Services at Chateau Retirement Communities, Angelia Brigance. In the engaging segment, she explains the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and the warning signs.
Brigance also describes the memory care treatments offered by the Chateau communities and this serves as a good launch pad for explaining why memory care is so difficult for family members to perform on their own without proper training. Memory care challenges the norm. Here are 3 ways how:
1. Paradoxical Routines
In order to help your elder develop new memories, they need to have a consistent schedule; an exact routine of events and activities. This helps because elders with dementia are having difficulty forming long-term memories. As the signal to make a memory travels from one part of the brain to the next, the data becomes corrupted. But, if you continue to perform the same routine, then you have multiple opportunities to send that message across the brain and translate it into a memory.
It’s best to think of a dementia brain like a corrupt memory card for a digital camera. Once corrupted, the pictures are lost, so your best bet would be to retake the exact same pictures in hopes that the memory card doesn’t corrupt again.
The paradox in giving your elder a consistent routine often means transforming your schedule into an erratic by-the-seat-of-your-pants routine. Most adult children have their own children, their own jobs, and their own recreational activities, so to suddenly upend that routine to ensure their elders’ have a consistent routine is contrary to everything they’ve accomplished thus far.
2. Senses Outweigh Intelligence
For years, we were taught to listen to our brains over our emotions. Logic and rationale are privileged over passions and sensations; look to how much more science and math are privileged over liberal arts for example.
Regardless of that debate, for a senior with Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the best treatments for them is a sensory overload. The hippocampus (the memory creation and translation center for the brain) is malfunctioning, which means memories need to triggered from somewhere else. The best place to do that is with sense memories since those are stored all over the brain.
Feeding an elder their favorite food; taking them on a walk through their favorite park; smelling the 40-year-old perfume or cologne—all these activities can spark memories in the brain. They remind the brain how to function and recall the proper memory.
3. Slow and Messy instead of Fast and Efficient
We live in a digital age where everything is quick and instant. And each software update makes the last generation smart phones look like dial-up modems by comparison. Anything that can do something that’s needed/wanted faster and more efficiently is a blessing… except with elders with Alzheimer’s.
When you’re taking care of a senior with Alzheimer’s Disease, you need to take things slow. You need to be patient and give them as much room for error as you can safely allow. If an elder wants to shave on their own or eat a spoonful of their own meal, then many caregivers’ reaction is to do it for them, but that doesn’t solve the problem. The senior needs to be independent to keep themselves engaged and lead a fulfilling life.
This is especially true though with family members who want to speed the process of eating or going to the bathroom along. If their elder does it on their own, they’re going to make a mess, but the mess is good so long as their health isn’t at risk. Even if their dexterity is waning, independence is what’s going to keep them going each day too.
In addition, if you want your elder to live a healthy and productive life, then catching this disease early is the best method. Familiarize yourself with the clues that indicate they may be suffering from Alzheimer’s and do NOT be afraid to bring it up with your parent. If they’re constantly misplacing items (if you find a trowel from the garden in your microwave); if they’re wearing the same clothes; if they’re repeating the same action (running the washing machine over and over again). These are all signs to watch out for that indicate something is wrong.