Marissa Spencer at Alzheimer's Training for Families

Marissa, pictured with son Isaac, attended a recent class at Home Instead Senior Care in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Here, she shares her observations.

Last night I attended my first training for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease. I was excited, because I still have so much to learn! One of the amazing things about the meeting was that I was able to hear stories from other attendees, and discover how they dealt with challenging situations.

Gaining strength from the experiences of others

One older man, explained that he cares for his wife, who suffers from a form of dementia called Lewy Body dementia. He commented that his wife tends to get very angry now, and frequently begins to swear. She has trouble performing routine tasks, and sometimes won’t eat for an entire day.

More recently, she has begun to wake up in the middle of the night and wander around the house. Her husband felt that he needed to stay awake with her, because she got lost easily, and even if she found herself in the next room, she might not know where she was. While it was clear that he still dearly loved his wife, it was also evident that he felt somewhat frustrated and very tired.

Another attendee, a sweet older woman, stated that her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease ten years ago. The disease has progressed to the point at which he is unable to speak or understand when others talk to him, although he still recognizes his wife. She reads to him every day, because when he was younger he loved books. Despite the challenges that she faces, however, she made it clear that she is still devoted to her husband. When another attendee commented that her husband was lucky to have her, the woman smiled, then replied, “No I am the lucky one!” She explained that while it sounded like a weird thing to say, over the years that he has had the disease she has drawn closer to him than ever! I can’t help but feel moved by such devotion.

Everyone in attendance that evening said they’d definitely be back, and, like me, was grateful for the opportunity to attend the class.

Tips for dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers

Kim at New Hamsphire Home Instead Senior Care

Kim at Home Instead Senior Care Seacoast & Southern New Hampshire Explaining how Caregivers Can Cope

Once the session got under way, we learned a lot! The speaker, Kim MacLennan, Home Instead Senior Care’s Client Care and Quality Assurance Manager, discussed the importance of using concrete ideas rather than abstract concepts when talking to Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers.

She explained that those who suffer from such conditions can only understand fact and routine. When asked a question, an Alzheimer’s sufferer can’t process the answer in his or her brain.

She gave an example of a client whom she worked with a few years ago. The client wanted to go somewhere, but Kim was unfamiliar with the route that they would have to take. However, the client said that she knew the way. The woman took her through a maze of back roads, until they reached one road that was closed due to flooding. The woman couldn’t understand why Kim would not drive down the street, because that street was on the route that they needed to take. In the client’s mind, there was no other way to get to the destination, and she became agitated when Kim suggested they take a different route. So instead of arguing or trying to explain, Kim simply turned the car around and headed back home.

Kim explained that caregivers need to treat Alzheimer’s and dementia patients like adults no matter what they do. While the decline of Alzheimer’s is often likened to regressing back to a childhood, the two situations are in fact different. Dementia sufferers know that they are adults, and still see themselves that way. Therefore, when treated like children, they understandably get agitated or angry. Kim stressed the importance of helping such ones to continue participating in activities that interested them before getting the disease, and only adjusting such activities in order to make them safe.

I particularly enjoyed Kim’s discussion of how to deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who resist following instructions. She mentioned that it’s often helpful to tweak your words to make it seem as though whatever needs to be done was the patient’s idea. It is also important, she explained, to be willing to let the little things go. Don’t worry too much about bathing and changing clothes. Get those things done when you can, if it takes a week to sneak in a quick cleaning of a body part, don’t fret about it.

Overall, I thought that the class was very informative. I plan to attend the next one as well, since I learned so much! I also enjoyed the nice little assortment of cheeses, crackers, grapes, and cider that we munched on throughout the presentation. I think Home Instead Senior Care is doing a wonderful service offering this to the public for free. We had two hours of interesting, informative discussion!

Would you like to attend a class right here in Baton Rouge? The next class will be held December 12th from 9-11 a.m. at the Home Instead Senior Care Baton Rouge office at
11764 Haymarket Avenue. Reserve your spot today by calling E.V. Wallace at 225.819.8338 or email her at evwallace@homeinsteadla.net. For more information please visit the blog post: Alzheimer’s Training for Families.