Providing Care for Someone with Dementia
One day I was sitting at a desk while taking care of my elderly mother in-law. She was resting in her room and I was getting caught up some paperwork. She had recently had a hip replaced and was now in the recovery/rehab stage.
As I sat there I could hear her talking,.. as though she was having a conversation with someone. The only problem was,.. she was alone in her room. She and I were the only persons in the house.
What I didn’t know at the time was that the pain medication she had been taking was causing her to see things that were not there. It began only on occasion. A few days before, she had asked if there was a kitten playing in her room when there wasn’t. Now she was having complete conversations with people from her past. This was very unusual behavior for her. I was getting more concerned by the minute.
When I walked into her room we would have normal communications without any sign that there may be anything wrong. But when I left she would start up talking again. Being that this was a Sunday I was sure the doctor wasn’t in. I had all these questions and no real understanding of dementia.
- Why was she acting this way?
- I there some medication causing this?
- Is it caused by some sickness or disease?
- Should I be getting a 911 ambulance, or take her to the emergency room in my car?
I called her home healthcare agency and ask for help. They connected me with her nurse and after describing the problem she decided it would be best to come out and see her.
Since this episode I have learned about dementia. Actually, dementia is not a specific disease at all. Rather it is a symptom of a problem. Described as problem with the thinking and social ability of a person severe enough to interfere with their daily functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults, but there are many other causes.
There could be a brain injury, poor nutrition or dehydration, reaction to medication or a host of other causes that include diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s. Dementia isn’t a normal part of aging; however, the risk rises as you age, especially after 65.
In our case the symptoms were mainly with hallucinations. The visiting nurse determined that my mother in-law was aware she was seeing things that were not really there. Also, she was not feeling threatened or afraid of these hallucinations. She was cognitive and able to carry on a normal conversation. So there did not appear to be an emergency situation at the time.
Her primary care doctor was consulted and a simple medication change was all that was required resolve the problem. We were really glad about that. Many people don’t have it so lucky.
Providing care for someone with dementia is physically and emotionally demanding. Here are some ideas from The Mayo Clinic * if you’re a caregiver for someone with dementia:
- Learn as much about the disease as you can and participate in caregiver education programs
- Find out about supportive services in your community, such as respite care or adult care, which can give you a break from caregiving at scheduled times during the week
- Ask friends or other family members for help
- Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health
- Ask questions of doctors, social workers and others involved in the care of your loved one
- Join a support group
*These suggestions are taken from he Mayo Clinic which you can learn more about here.