Caring for a loved one with a Dementia diagnosis can be challenging. North Star Senior Advisors has trained experts that are certified, dementia practitioners. We not only understand the disease process but can help you navigate your search for memory care facilities in Central Park, FL.
Memory loss is a key symptom of Dementia. An early sign of the disease is usually difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, memory impairments worsen and other symptoms may begin to develop. There are also several different types of Dementia that present different behaviors, Alzheimer’s being one of the most common.
- Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by “plaques” between the dying cells in the brain and “tangles” within the cells (both are due to protein abnormalities). The brain tissue in a person with Alzheimer’s has progressively fewer nerve cells and connections, and the total brain size shrinks.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies is a neurodegenerative condition linked to abnormal structures in the brain.
- Mixed dementia refers to a diagnosis of two or three types occurring together. For instance, a person may show both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia at the same time.
- Parkinson’s disease is also marked by the presence of Lewy bodies. Although Parkinson’s is often considered a disorder of movement, it can also lead to dementia symptoms.
- Huntington’s disease is characterized by specific types of uncontrolled movements but also includes dementia.
Changes in personality and behavior
Brain changes that occur in Dementia or Alzheimer’s can affect moods and behaviors. Problems may include the following:
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
- Distrust in others
- Irritability and aggressiveness
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Wandering, also known as exit-seeking
- Delusions, such as believing something has been stolen
- Sometimes physical aggression
How do you deal with someone who has Dementia and physical aggression?
Physical Aggression is defined as hitting, biting, scratching, spitting, and otherwise lashing out. Seeing these signs from a person with dementia is not uncommon if they are in the later stages. Keep in mind your loved one is not doing this on purpose, but it is very important to learn how to control them when they are having an episode.
There are two reasons why your loved one can turn violent: One is personality changes; this is caused by the disease which makes them lose control. Two are emotional and physical discomfort. They might feel insecure, angry, embarrassed, or unable to communicate their emotions.
Below you will find some tips we found on dailycaring.com on how to prevent and respond when your loved one is physically lashing out.
How to prevent aggression
Try to keep the person calm, secure, and comfortable. Make sure the person is dry (if he or she wears adult sanitary products) and is neither hungry nor thirsty. People with Alzheimer’s forget to eat and can’t always tell you what they need.
Keep to basic household routines. Ideally, sleep and meals happen in a predictable way every day. Ideally, the person with Alzheimer’s gets fresh air (weather permitting) every day and/or gets a little exercise, even if it’s just walking through the house.
Keep a written log of what was happening just before violent outbursts. Try using the ABC method to understand Alzheimer’s behavior. You may soon see a pattern. If bathing tends to spark violence, for example, can you tell what seems most upsetting about it? If it’s being cold, maybe you can turn up the heat, shut the bathroom door, and run towels and a robe in the dryer before you begin.
Prepare the person for triggers as best you can. Obviously, you can’t preempt every upset – if a substitute care helper shows up, you still need the help of that person even if the new face is upsetting to the person with Alzheimer’s. But while it’s not usually productive to rationalize with someone who has dementia, telling them about an upcoming change is considerate and may offer a little preparation. Keep your tone calm and upbeat – letting your own frustration show through words or body language will only make your loved one tense and more on edge.
How to respond in the heat of the moment
- Try to stay calm. Don’t fight back or raise your voice. Even cues that you’re nervous might get picked up by someone with Alzheimer’s, and that can increase the aggression. Leave the room if you need to pull yourself together.
- Stay safe. Obviously, you don’t want your charge to fall or hurt herself, but your own safety needs to be paramount. Step back if the person is out of control, rather than stepping in to restrain or overpower.
- Don’t argue. Make it your goal to avoid escalating the behavior, not to get your way or prove yourself right.
- Resist the temptation to punish. The notion of cause and effect is beyond the cognition of someone with serious dementia. Issuing consequences (no snack, a lecture) will only add to the person’s upset, and to the violence.
- Try breaking the mood by stopping and starting again in 15 minutes. Change to a new activity, or even just move to a new room. If bathing has gotten off on the wrong foot, for example, switch to something you know your loved one enjoys – listening to music, having a snack. Then get back to the bath after, taking care to eliminate or soften the trigger if you can. (Maybe you play the favorite music in the bathroom this time.)
- Self-soothe in healthy ways.
- After a troubling incident, take care of yourself, too. Call a friend or reach out to an online Alzheimer’s forum. Do not isolate yourself physically from others (a common practice, since caregivers grow afraid to have others see their loved one “this way”).
Let’s say that you have tried out the tips listed above, and nothing is working out. It might be best to consult with your loved one’s doctor in regard to their aggression. Your loved one can have a urinary tract infection (UTI) and may be in pain, or their doctor might be able to prescribe antidepressants or antipsychotics which are used to reduce physical aggression. If the medicine prescribed does not help either, you might want to keep an open mind and search into a new living situation. Your primary goal should be to do what is best for you and your loved one.
Another step you can take is seeking out a Dementia care facility that can help those with Dementia or other forms of it. However, many families have not heard of this or don’t feel as if their loved one is appropriate as they only think of an assisted living facility. Those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis are appropriate for memory care and we are here to tell you about these facilities also known as Memory Care in the local area.
What is Memory Care?
Memory Care is a specialized assisted living facility that has trained staff to care for those with memory impairments. Typically, a person with Alzheimer’s or another type of Dementia needs help with activities of daily living, constant supervision, and a secured environment with other residents with a similar diagnosis. Memory Care communities typically have 24-hour awake staff for those residents who are up at night, specially designed units, or what some communities call neighborhoods that are easy for residents to navigate as well as specialized activities that help with cognitive abilities and oftentimes helps delay the disease progression.
In Central Florida, there are many communities that range from small to large environments. In the state of Florida, there are different license types that are regulated to care for your loved one based on their level of care. If your loved one has anxiety or agitation, then maybe a large environment is too much for them and you can consider smaller licensed memory care homes with a limited number of residents. We know of several facilities in the area and can walk you through the benefits of a small environment versus a large facility and vice versa.
Before you begin your search on your own, there are several things you should familiarize yourself with:
- Budget: The average cost of Memory Care begins at $4500 per month.
- Level of Care: Know the help your loved one may need because that will determine which license type to consider.
- Activities of Daily Living: Bathing, Dressing, Toileting, Medication Management, etc.
- Cognitive Activities: Scheduled activities to include music, art, pet therapy, social interaction with other residents
- Secured Environment: Is the facility secured and is there a camera in the main area
Nowadays, Dementia Care or Memory Care facility settings are decorated to look more like a home rather than an institution. Staff often wear regular clothes instead of nursing scrubs, some newer communities decorated their interior to look like a town so residents feel as if they are enjoying the outdoors. There are so many neat gadgets and amenities for seniors to participate in no matter what stage of the disease they are in.
A Common Misconception About Dementia
Something we hear often from families is that their loved ones living with Dementia need to be Baker Acted and possibly put in a psych ward or nursing home. While some families are completely against the Baker Act, others do not realize the effects of it or alternative options that can be taken. This is why education is crucial and something North Star Senior Advisors would like to address.
First of all, what does the Baker Act mean?
Baker Act allows government officials, doctors, and mental health counselors to initiate a procedure where individuals experiencing some sort of mental breakdown are involuntarily institutionalized for a short time.
Due to significant demographic changes over the last couple of decades, one can argue that the Baker Act is now being forced or the only way in some family’s eyes to address an immediate issue – dementia — for which it was not largely intended.
Let’s paint a picture here with a recent client of ours that was experiencing a similar situation.
One afternoon, a daughter gets a call from her mom’s caregiver who explained she had been acting out. Cursing, trying to leave the home and above all else, threatening to cause harm. However, she did have Dementia. In any other case, Baker Acting someone might be the way to go, but not always, especially someone with a known Dementia diagnosis. Even with this in mind, the caregiver called authorities to have her mother Baker Acted, aka, taken away to a mental hospital to be treated for her symptoms. She was not aware there are alternative options, and who can fault her? The system needs fixing, and she simply did not know who else to call.
Once her mom was in the mental hospital, no one educated the daughter on what to do next. They kept this woman in the hospital for 72 hours with no specialized medical treatment. She did not get to take her prescribed medications and was not treated for what we later learned was a severe UTI. For those that don’t know, seniors are susceptible to UTI’s which may alter their mental status.
Fortunately, this woman’s daughter contacted North Star Senior Advisors, who specializes in helping those with Dementia and any Dementia-related diseases locate memory care assisted living in Central Florida. At first, she was still apprehensive and believed her mom needed to be in a “nursing home” with a “psych ward”. But once we informed her that Memory Care communities are just like Assisted living but solely dedicated to engaging those with Dementia, she felt a whole lot better.
Our North Star Senior Advisors nurse did a consultation with the daughter and suggested that her mother needed to seek treatment for a UTI by a physician as well as guided her to a Memory Care community in Orlando, 10 minutes from her home. Within the first 2 weeks of moving into memory care, her mom showed no signs of aggression and actually acclimated quite well! She couldn’t believe how much her mom calmed down.
In reality, sometimes, all that is needed is an adjustment of medications and a constant routine to help ease the anxiety of those living with Dementia which Memory Care is intended for. Please know that if our client’s mom was a continued threat to herself or others, she would not be appropriate for memory care. Assisted Living Facilities with Memory Care have to ensure that their residents and staff are safe at all times and cannot have a physically combative or aggressive resident in their facility.
Thanks to dementia care training such as Certified Dementia Practitioners, we now know that much disruptive behavior among dementia sufferers is actually from inadequately trained individuals that simply do not realize what they are doing to trigger such behavior. With improved and specialized training, this type of approach can ultimately be avoided.
All Memory Care staff must undergo some form of Dementia Training, and many do become Certified Dementia Practitioners like all Senior Advisors are here at North Star Senior Advisors. We take pride in ensuring each team member completes this expert training so we can better assist you and your loved ones who are going through such a sensitive and urgent time.
North Star also wants to clarify we are not condemning the Baker Act but suggesting that there are other options to take when it is applied to individuals with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Also, know that there may be times Baker Acting someone because they are threatening to harm themselves or others is required. Our advice is to Baker Act if you or your loved one are under imminent threat of physical harm.
Senior Advisors for Memory Care Placement
Finding the perfect Memory Care Facility and navigating through your loved ones Dementia journey can be hard but it doesn’t have to be, even during this pandemic. North Star Senior Advisors will work as your advocate, educate and guide you to Dementia resources, narrow down search options, save you time by eliminating inappropriate communities, and also find a memory care community within your budget. We are not biased! We give you options. You choose the community that you feel your loved one will feel most at home.
Give us a call to speak with a Senior Living Advisor today at 407-796-1582. Our services are completely free for you.