SENIOR HOME CARE SERVING ALAMEDA AND CONTRA COSTA COUNTIES
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According to the National Institute on Aging, the term “dementia” refers to a decline in cognitive ability. A person with this diagnosis may experience memory loss, problems with language skills, impaired visual perception, issues with focus and attention and a decline in the ability to plan and manage complex tasks such as balancing a checkbook.
If you live in the East Bay Area of San Francisco, and if you are providing care to someone suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or other cognitive challenges, Aging in Place Home Care can help. We’ve found that seniors suffering from cognitive loss are most comfortable staying in a familiar place where changes are minimized.
Our caregivers can provide as little or as much assistance as your loved one requires. They are trained in providing the support and care required for helping people with cognitive loss.
Home Care for Seniors with Dementia
Some seniors with mild dementia may be perfectly able to manage their independence but need part time help to accomplish their daily activities. Others, who are suffering a more advanced stage may require around-the-clock-care. Due to these variations in need, at Aging in Place Home Care, we always begin the intake process with a detailed needs assessment with the family.
During the needs assessment we’ll discuss the challenges and together formulate a plan to address these needs. Next, we’ll match the right caregiver with our customer based on skills and personality compatibility.
Our caregivers are trained to incorporate memory therapy techniques using services such as Brain HQ which helps our seniors overcome their memory loss and rebuild lost skills. We also coordinate with the senior’s doctors and medical staff to ensure continuity of care.
“It takes a special caregiver to work with a senior suffering from dementia. It takes a person with empathy, patience and experience.”
What Are the Stages of Cognitive Decline?
Dementia Care Central describes several different scales to measure the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The Global Deterioration Scale and the Functional Assessment Staging Test both suggest seven stages. The Clinical Dementia Rating Scale describes five stages.
Probably the easiest way to understand cognitive decline is to separate the disease progression into three stages: early, middle and late.
The early stage of cognitive decline typically lasts between two and four years. During this stage, your loved one will probably function more or less independently. He or she is likely to experience short-term memory loss and difficulty planning and completing complex projects such as making a family meal or managing finances.
During this time, caregivers at Aging in Place Home Care help by providing gentle reminders and prompts as needed. He or she can also help your loved one with planning and organizing household tasks. Our staff can also provide companionship and encourage your loved one to talk or engage in fun activities.
The middle stage is usually the longest stage, lasting from two to ten years. During this stage, your loved one will begin to have difficulty expressing his or her thoughts and understanding what you say. It will also become more difficult to manage even basic daily activities.
When your loved one is in the middle stage of his or her illness, our caregivers can help by offering increased physical assistance and cues to manage personal care. We can also supervise your loved one if he or she tends to wander or to get up and move around at night. Finally, we can help with errands so that your loved one does not need to drive.
The late stage lasts from one to three years. During this stage, your loved one will have severe problems with communicating. Memory declines even more. Your loved one may start living in the past, asking for people who are long-deceased such as a parent or sibling. Most people in the late stage need extensive assistance with daily tasks like dressing, bathing and even eating.
During the late stage, our caregivers are available to provide the increased care your loved one requires to stay comfortable. We will observe for any issues such as restlessness or grimacing that could signify pain, and we will keep a close eye out for skin breakdown. We will also provide pleasant stimulation such as gently massaging your loved one’s hands and feet, playing music your loved one enjoys, reading aloud or burning incense or a scented candle.
What Causes Cognitive Decline?
Several conditions can lead to a decline in cognition. If your loved one is showing symptoms of such a decline, it’s important to arrange for him or her to get a complete neurological exam. The more you know about your loved one’s diagnosis, the more you will be able to select the appropriate treatments.
Medical News Today points to several conditions that cause problems with thinking and memory.
Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of memory loss and other cognitive problems. It is characterized by amyloid plaques which form between the brain cells and tangles which form within the cells. The first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is short-term memory loss.
Lewy bodies. Lewy bodies are abnormal structures in the brain. These structures are caused by a protein called alpha-synuclein. Lewy bodies frequently occur in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s is a fatal genetic disorder that destroys brain cells, causing problems with both physical and mental functioning. Huntington’s usually strikes people during the prime of their lives.
Frontotemporal or Pick’s disease. This condition causes the frontal and temporal anterior lobes of the brain to shrink. Common symptoms include problem behaviors and difficulty with language.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus. NPH occurs when cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain, causing the ventricles to become enlarged. If properly diagnosed, this condition can be reversed before permanent brain damage occurs.
Vascular or multi-infarct. People with this condition experience the loss of brain cells due to repeated small or large strokes.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a cognitive decline that occurs due to repeated brain injuries. It is most commonly associated with athletes and veterans. People may start to notice symptoms of CTE in their 20s or 30s.
Depression. Older people who are severely depressed may experience cognitive problems such as forgetfulness and trouble planning and carrying out complex tasks. If the depression is effectively treated, the person’s cognitive ability may improve.
Mixed causes. It is not uncommon for people to experience cognitive decline due to two or more illnesses or injuries. For instance, someone with Alzheimer’s disease may also experience vascular disease or depression.
How Can I Treat My Loved One’s Cognitive Decline?
Unfortunately, very few conditions that cause cognitive decline are curable. The Alzheimer’s Association discusses two categories of medication that may ease some cognitive symptoms. Cholinesterase inhibitors, such as Aricept or Exelon, and memantine, sold under the brand name Namenda, may slow cognitive decline for a time. They cannot reverse or stop cognitive decline, though.
Your loved one’s doctor may also prescribe medications to deal with secondary symptoms. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and antipsychotic medications may help to treat mood and behavior.
Doctors may also suggest non-pharmaceutical interventions. Reminiscence therapy, for instance, involves helping your loved one talk about favorite memories. It might involve looking at old letters or pictures. Another non-pharmaceutical treatment is cognitive stimulation, which involves participating in games or activities or discussing current events. Our caregivers are available to help you implement these treatments.
As caregivers, we can also help with another important part of treatment – making sure your loved one engages in enjoyable activities, eats a healthy diet and gets plenty of sleep on a regular schedule.
If you are a caregiver for someone with cognitive decline in San Francisco East Bay, our trained and compassionate staff is ready to help. We will support you and offer the care your loved one needs to have the best possible quality of life.
Dementia Caregiver Support Group in Livermore
If you are caring for someone who’s coping with dementia or Alzheimer’s, there is an Alzheimer’s Association support group which is open for families and caregivers of persons suffering from Alzheimer’s or a related disorder. The support group provides a safe environment for individuals to express feelings, give and receive support, learn about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and discover effective ways to cope with and care for Alzheimer’s patients. For detailed information, including other meeting locations, please call Heather at 800-272-3900 or email her at [email protected] The group accepts walk-ins and meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 12 noon at Asbury United Methodist Church, 4743 East Ave in Livermore.
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