As my father got more and more ill and as his mental state deteriorated both his and our lifestyle became more restricted and limited. He was no longer able to do the things he wanted and his room became his world. We tried, when he asked, to take him out. He used a small mobile oxygen supply that helped him feel more comfortable but the physical and mental effort involved caused problems. His perception of the world around also began to change. As we stopped outside a shop he said, "that man, we should call the police, he is hurting his wife!" In fact the man was just walking along the street talking to a woman.
Was the cause of his misinterpretation of the situation dementia? Was it the lack of oxygen getting to his brain because of the physical effort of getting dressed and into the car? Was it anxiety or psychosis? Was it due to another physical illness such as a urinary infection or some other type of disease of the central nervous system or something else?
The incident highlights a number of problems to do with diagnosis and treatment and it can be a difficult call for caregivers. Often we just dismiss even quite serious changes of behavior as just another symptom of their primary diagnosis. However, we do need to be aware that people with Alzheimer's can get sick with other diseases and conditions too. So, do you call in the doctor, do you wait and see if the symptoms reoccur?
The best rule for caregivers to follow is, if the behavior that results from such an incident is serious, for example violence, aggression, marked distress, a sudden deterioration in their physical wellbeing, then see the doctor. If things return to ‘normal' quickly then you can afford to wait and see if the incident is repeated before you seek help.
Caregiver Tips;things that helped my father were often simple things:
- Give reassurance and remind the person that you are there to help and look after them. Tell them that you will not put them in a situation where they are at risk.
- Make sure your face is visible so that they can see who you are and can see your facial expression.
- Re-establishing routines often helps reduce confusion.
- Reduce noise and distractions as sensory stimulation can increase confusion too.
- You can decide at a later date whether to repeat the activity that seemed to contribute to their adverse reaction.
In my father's case the cause of his symptoms was anoxia, a lack of oxygen to the brain. Sadly the car ride to the shops was his last trip out. He was just too sick and his heart failure was just too advanced.
Published On: June 21, 2011