Did you know that you can test yourself to see if your cognitive skills are slipping below average, which might signal early dementia? The Ohio State University has developed a self-administered gerocognitive exam (SAGE) which is similar to the ones the medical profession employs when they diagnose patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Research underscores the importance of early detection since the new medications available today only help in the early stages of the disease.
If you are interested in having a look at the exam, which can be completed within 15 minutes, you can find a copy as well as the scoring instructions at:
Communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s disease who has language difficulties, requires lots of patience, understanding, skill and creativity. One of the keys in communicating effectively is eliminating background noise such as TV or radio or other distractions. Sometimes this is not possible, but it might be possible to move to a less distracting area before you start talking. It is always a good start to get the person’s attention by using eye contact, therefore having a conversation when you are in another room will not get favorable results.
Here are a few other points to consider:
- speak slowly and clearly
- pay attention to see if they understood you before going on
- repeat important information, but keep it simple
- show and talk, give a visual clue
- allow time for them to respond
Be aware of your body language as well as tone of voice and facial expressions. It is easier on everyone when you can join the Alzheimer patient in their reality rather than argue with them. The story of Rose is a good example. Rose was a very sweet lady but at dinner time she often became upset because she thought she had to sing later and she couldn’t remember the music. The staff often told her she didn’t have to sing, but Rose still couldn’t let it go until one day they told her they already booked someone else to perform. That creative response calmed Rose down. We learned later that Rose was an accomplished soloist in her day and often performed for the troops during the war.
The quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease depends largely on the interactions with others who care for them. Understanding how to deal with communication issues helps to lessen the frustration for everyone.
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia usually progresses to the point where language skills are impacted. This may include difficulty in finding the correct words and following the thread of conversations. There may even be times when the person is in the middle of a sentence and forgets what they were talking about. Outside distractions may be harder to tune out as well, particularly if the conversation is happening in a large or noisy room. The attention span becomes shorter. There will also be signs that the person may not comprehend what is being said to them because they have lost the ability to make connections. I recall an instance when my mother and I were visiting dad in the ICU unit at the hospital and we explained the No Scent rule to mom as, don’t wear your perfume. The next day however she wore dad’s after shave lotion, not making the connection that they are similar.
The loss of verbal communication makes people rely more on non-verbal signs. Being aware of this can help the affected person feel less isolated and less misunderstood as well as lessening the frustration level for both parties. A communications study has found that 93% of all communication is actually non-verbal, which surprised me. We don’t often think of tone and pitch of voice as well as body language to be as important as it is. However these become increasingly more important when dealing with someone who is struggling with their language skills due to memory loss.
Stay tuned for some communication tips next time.
As we age our memory tends to fail us now and then, we are not as quick to remember things, but that is a normal part of aging. When the memory loss is significant then it becomes a concern which needs to be looked at for possible neurological disorders, one of which is Alzheimer’s disease.
There are things you can do to improve your memory as you age. Much has been said on this topic lately due to our aging population. So often we have heard of people who retire and don’t know what to do with themselves. The people who fare better after retirement are those who have a reason to get up in the morning. Many people develop their hobby into a full-time activity and others volunteer their services in an area of interest. The key is to keep active by being involved with people. Keeping up social connections helps to keep the mind active. Learning new skills is another way to keep the brain sharp; joining a club, playing bridge, pursuing an interest in music, gardening or whatever brings learning and enjoyment together.
However if you are concerned about your memory then I urge you to seek out medical advice. You may not have anything to worry about, but on the other hand if it is a form of dementia then you are doing yourself a favor by having an early diagnosis. There are several new medications which are effective, but only if the diagnosis is made early.
January is Alzheimer’s awareness month and the office of the Canadian Alzheimer’s Society has released a report on Dementia called Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadians. This report sent off alarm bells for the country. It mentioned:
- The rate at which Canadians develop Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia will grow from one every five minutes to one every two minutes, if nothing changes.
- The number of people living with dementia in Canada will more than double from 500,000 to 1.1 million.
You can imagine the implications this will have on the health care system not to mention the human impact. You may ask why this is happening to Canada. We are like all western nations who are dealing with an aging population. Dementia increases with age and since there is no cure as of yet, we have an enormous challenge on our hands. This is why the Alzheimer’s Society is sending out a call to action for our government to organize a comprehensive National Dementia Strategy. There is no time to waste as millions of baby boomers are entering their retirement years, but if we act now we can still turn the tide.
I knew nothing about dementia or Alzheimer’s before my mother’s diagnosis and now it seems that everyone I speak with knows someone who is affected by this devastating disease. If someone in your family is affected I would urge you to seek help from your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Society. They can offer much valuable knowledge which can make all the difference. They have many helpful suggestions on dealing with the daily frustrations involved with care giving and finding a suitable care facility. There are medications out there which slow the process and new clinical trials are in the works, but more must be done.
What can you do if you have a family member with dementia? You can help them by educating yourself about the disease. I wished that my family had recognized my mother’s symptoms earlier then she may have been helped by some of the medications which slow the disease. This is one reason I am writing the book about my mother’s journey, to let others know to seek help early because fore warned is fore armed.
To read the Rising Tide Report go to: