Updated Your Alzheimer’s Education Yet?

By Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP

Still think aluminum causes AD? Were you taught to use reality orientation? Always wondered what Snoezelen is? At a loss when someone asks you about “respite”? Think behaviors are expected and only fixed with medications?

There are dozens of resources, facts, approaches and research updates in the world of dementia care. To some, these are not news. For people new to the field or new to needing the information, these updates are not always included in Alzheimer’s 101 sessions.

I’m always amazed when I read a “doctor” who has a newspaper column referring to risks of aluminum or mercury amalgam as causes of Alzheimer’s. And although I feel like I speak about it all the time, I’m continuously amused when people say “I heard we’re supposed to use reality orientation” – it’s amusing because it’s so counter-intuitive. The people saying that are seeking confirmation because they know it feels wrong.

Here are some basics you won’t hear about in Alz 101:

  1. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Institutes on Aging & Health, there is insufficient evidence to indicate any causative effect from aluminum or mercy amalgam fillings. Some studies exist but the science has yet to be validated and replication of research yielded different results.
  2. Reality orientation should only be used for non-emotional subjects, such as “when is Bingo.” People with Alzheimer’s should not be “reoriented” when asking where their parents are – telling someone their parents are dead is unpleasant any time. Retraumatizing a person with dementia is complex and cruel.
  3. Snoezelen is a term for multisensory environments. It’s originally a Dutch concept from their words for rest/relax (doezelen) and explore (snuffelen). Now it is also a brand name (like Kleenex is to tissues). In a multisensory environment we use aromatherapy, fiber optic lights, water tubes and sound machines, depending on the person’s interests and reactions.
  4. Respite (pronounced Res-pit) means support for a caregiver to get a break. Services may be provided routinely to get the caregiver to a social event or just to rest, or intermittently for him/her to get to a doctor or family special event.
  5. Behaviors are common, and usually the result of coping with stress (including from the environment) or pain. My favorite behavior meds are PAIN MEDS. Please don’t let me be in pain when I have dementia! Most of the time, behaviors can be managed through prevention by knowing the individual’s triggers. Our motto is ALL BEHAVIOR HAS MEANING.

Learn about more Alzheimer’s updates by following this blog, following us on Facebook & Twitter and joining our newsletter lists at www.agingcareacademy.org and www.hebrewhealthcare.org. You can also request specific educational information from us. Contact us for resources or training options.

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