Dementia Care Strategies require attention while waiting for a cure…
Without a cure for Alzheimer’s, patients suffering from the disease must rely on professional dementia care and medications referred to as cholinesterase inhibitors to relieve symptoms. Currently, the U.S. FDA has approved three medications for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms (Razadyne, Exelon and Cognex), one medication, for those with moderate to severe dementia (Namenda) and one medication that can be used in all Alzheimer’s stages (Aricept).
Alzheimer’s Disease Statistics
Some scientists suggest a genuine; world-wide Alzheimer’s epidemic has been taking place for the past decade or so. The National Alzheimer’s Association 2011 statistics seem to indicate the persistent and widespread prevalence of a disease for which research has yet to discover a cure:
- Nearly 5.5 million U.S citizens have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease–200, 000 of these patients are under 65 years of age
- One out of eight over age 65 have Alzheimer’s disease
- Women are more likely to be diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s than men (simply because women live longer than men)
- Almost 70 percent of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s in Americans who are 70 years and older
- If a cure for Alzheimer’s has not been implemented by 2030, it is estimated that approximately 8 million people 65 and older will develop Alzheimer’s disease, primarily because people born prior to 1964 (the baby boomer generation) will all be over 60 years old. This represents a 50 percent increase from the numbers currently being reported regarding the prevalence of Alzheimer’s
In addition, Alzheimer’s life expectancy statistics show that patients suffering from AD dementia can live as long as 30 years following diagnosis of the disease or less than five. Shortened life spans of AD patients are generally the result of vulnerability to an age-related illness such as pneumonia or heart disease.
Until a cure for Alzheimer’s is found, the disease will continue be the fifth leading cause of death among people over the age of 65 and the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., behind cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke (Center for Disease Control).
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Person-Centered Dementia Care
Rather than treat an Alzheimer’s patient as someone without an identity, many nursing homes are starting to integrate person-centered care in with their medication and physical rehabilitation therapies. Based on T.M. Kitwood’s theories of personhood and the depersonalization caused by dementia, person-centered dementia care emphasizes a more holistic approach to assisting an Alzheimer’s patient with the day-to-day problems of severe cognitive impairment.
Because the cure for Alzheimer’s does not appear to be imminent, Kitwood insists that we start viewing a person with moderate to advanced dementia as someone who is not a vegetable, an object or a child, but a human being with the need to be loved and treated with dignity.
Although dementia patients may seem unaware of their surroundings, behave irrationally and lash out at those closest to them, Kitwood insists that even AD patient who can no longer “connect” with reality still have a profound and enduring need to experience respect, kindness and empathy.
He elaborates on this need by discussing the meaning of “malignant social psychology”, or the disinterested and even callous manner in which some caregivers interact with dementia patients.
People entrusted with the care of someone severely impaired may think that the patient cannot hear, feel or think and behave as though they are like empty shells. However, Kitwood says that this kind of negligence greatly contributes to a patient’s disabilities by conveying strong, non-verbal messages that are psychically sensed by the patient.
- Treating the person like a living, breathing individual instead of acting like the person cannot hear or feel your presence
- Never talk to the patient in disrespectful or dehumanizing terms
- All dementia patients, no matter how severe the impairment is, should be addressed by their first names. In addition, caregivers should make it a point to refer to past and present personal aspects of their patients’ lives. Doing this may help patients recall events, people and other enjoyable memories
- Learning to be gentle and accommodating when patients are irascible, engage in repetitive behavior or talk or refuse to help the caregiver with daily hygiene and eating routines.
The theory of person-centered therapy actually originated in the 1950s when psychologist Carl Rogers introduced a radical new counseling method designed for people who were suffering from depression, neurosis and other non-psychotic mental illnesses. Similar to Kitwood’s theory, Rogers’ PCT also focused on treating people with empathy and unconditional compassion in order to help the person find a true sense of self. Develop a person centered care profile for your family member.
Research concerning a cure for Alzheimer’s is ongoing and aggressive, with better medications and new insights into the origin of the disease being discovered every year.
For the latest information about Alzheimer’s disease, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease) provides peer-reviewed articles, research reports and hypotheses regarding the genetics, etiology, epidemiology, pathogenesis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia.