Part II: Memory loss in older adults

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Class aims to help caregivers better communicate with Alzheimer's sufferers

Free classes on effective communication strategies for dementia caregivers are set for 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Area Agency on Aging Community Action Partnership conference room, 124 New Sixth St. in Lewiston, and 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 17 in the Gritman Medical Center conference room, 700 S. Main St. in Moscow.

This class teaches strategies and new ways for families and caregivers to communicate with and connect to sufferers as verbal skills deteriorate.

Registration isn't necessary, but free in-home respite is available during both classes with advance notice by calling Stephanie Bodden at (208) 743-5580. This class qualifies for two Department of State Health Services-approved continuing education hours (CEs) that are available upon request for a $20 processing fee. More information is available by calling (208) 666-2996.

Many people know someone who has dementia. What was previously a lively interacting personality may now be a flat face "shell" of a person, with little resemblance to their former personality.

Last month's House Call column covered dementia symptoms, types and testing (it can be found online at lmtribune.com by clicking on the Special Pubs tab and selecting the October edition of Golden Times). This second part centers on care, treatment, prevention and resources available to dementia sufferers and their loved ones.

SPECIALTY CARE/

TEAM APPROACH

Dementia patients are mainly treated by their primary care provider (PCP) but also may be co-managed by their PCP and a neurologist or sometimes a psychologist or psychiatrist. Many dementia patients need a caregiver, which may be a loved one or a hired provider. This is a difficult situation for all involved, as caregiving is often a thankless, tiring job, causing much stress for the family member(s). Many families feel guilty that their loved one is sick, so they do not ask for outside help in caring for them. Sometimes, resources are not available to afford appropriate care, which makes the situation even more difficult. Sometimes families decide the level of care is too advanced to keep their loved one at home, so nursing home care may be appropriate and best for everyone.

TREATMENT OF DEMENTIA

Treatment varies based on the type of dementia diagnosed. For Alzheimer's disease, there are two types of medicines currently available that might help. For vascular dementia, treatment focuses on keeping blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol as close to normal as possible. Smoking cessation, if applicable, is very important. Doing these things can help reduce further damage to the brain.

Sadly, there really aren't good treatments for most types of dementia. But doctors can sometimes treat troubling symptoms that come with dementia, such as depression or anxiety and even hallucinations.

Treatment also includes intervention for behaviors, setting up realistic expectations for family and caregivers, and other approaches (such as art, music, complementary medicine (acupuncture), aromatherapy and bright-light therapy).

Safety is a common concern for those with dementia. People affected often do not realize how severe their symptoms are. Trusting family and friends to tell dementia patients when it is no longer safe to drive, cook or do other things that could be dangerous is important.

People with dementia often fall and hurt themselves. To reduce the risk of falls, it's important to:

Secure loose rugs or use non-skid backing on rugsTuck away loose wires or electrical cordsHave patients wear sturdy, comfortable shoesKeep walkways well lit

PREVENTION

There are no proven ways to prevent dementia. Here are some things that seem to help keep the brain healthy:

Physical activity and a healthy dietSocial interactionBrain stimulation such as crossword and sudoku puzzles (several online resources such as the Lumosity and Clevermind applications and others may be found on the website https://www.developinghumanbrain.org/brain-exercises-prevent-alzheimers-dementia/)

LOCAL RESOURCES

Resources are available through the Alzheimer's Association and other resources online. Joining a support group for caregivers, and also for

patients, may be very helpful.

Home health resources usually are available for severe cases, and include home health nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and social services for function, rehabilitation and safety.

Dementia resources on the Palouse that help support family members dealing with dementia in their loved ones include the Martin Wellness Clinic in Moscow, Circles of Caring Adult Day Services in Pullman and Palouse Dementia Care LLC in Moscow. Homes that specialize in dementia care in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, include Life Care Center and Wedgewood Terrace (this is not an all-inclusive list).

More information dedicated to supporting those with dementia or their caregivers, may be found through the Idaho Commission on Aging (https://aging.idaho.gov/caregiver/) or the Alzheimer's Association (https://alz.org/).

CONCLUSION

Dementia is a common, difficult situation many will face. Resources are available to help. And more information for treatment and prevention will hopefully be available in future through medical research.

Since the future is unknown for all of us regarding dementia or other illnesses, it may be said that we should all live life to the fullest each and every day.

This article is dedicated to the memory of my former father-in-law Donald M. Clay, who died of dementia complications at the young age of 62.

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Todd is a board-certified family physician at Moscow Medical at 213 N. Main St. in Moscow. She was an Army physician for 13 years and with Providence for three years and moved to the Palouse in the summer of 2016. She can be reached at (208) 882-7565.

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