Caring for Patients with Dementia
Top 10 tips for communicating with a patient with dementia
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Dementia Trivia – How much do you know?
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Did you know that there are approximately 5.2 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, and experts predict that number will reach 16 million by the year 2050?
As the population ages, so does the number of people living with dementia. About two thirds of all general acute care patients are over the age of 65, and the prevalence of dementia in this population is approximately 30 percent. Research shows that when these patients are hospitalized, they experience worse clinical outcomes, longer lengths of stay, a greater number of falls, and higher readmission and mortality rates than those without dementia.
Dementia is a general term that describes a number of diseases and conditions that develop when nerve cells in the brain are damaged, die, or no longer function properly. This process causes a progressive decline in memory, behavior, and the ability to communicate, interact socially, and think clearly. These changes evolve slowly, becoming more evident over months and years.
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. Vascular dementia is caused by brain injury affecting circulation of blood to the brain. It makes up about 10% of dementia cases. The term, early onset dementia, describes dementia in a person under the age of 65. Over 200,000 people in the U.S. have early onset dementia. Other types of dementia can occur with progression of Parkinson’s Disease, Pick’s Disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Hydrocephalus, and Huntington’s Disease.
Delirium is a medical condition marked by abrupt confusion that emerges over days or weeks and represents a sudden change from a person’s previous course of dementia. Confusion related to delirium often fluctuates within hours and sometimes becomes dramatic. When patients with known dementia are admitted to the hospital in a confused state, staff should consult family members or caregivers to establish baseline information about the patient’s usual state. If confusion seems greater than usual, other issues, such as infection, medications, injury, or illness could be the underlying cause.
When patients with dementia are hospitalized, a variety of factors, such as the strange new environment, disrupted daily routine, medications, and other underlying medical conditions, often increase confusion and anxiety. There are a number of things healthcare providers can do to help reduce confusion and ensure optimal outcomes of care.
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|List A||List B|
|Dramatic changes in mood and personality||Becoming slightly irritable when a routine is a disrupted|
|Forgets entire experiences||Forgets part of an experience|
|Rarely remembers later||Usually remembers later|
|Poor judgment and decision-making||Occasionally makes a bad decision|
|Inability to manage a budget||Misses a monthly payment|
|Difficulty having a conversation||Occasionally forgets which word to use|
|Puts things in unusual places and can’t find them later||Misplaces things in reasonable places from time to time|
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Patients with early onset dementia tend to struggle with short-term memory. They may have trouble remembering what they had for breakfast a couple of hours ago, but may still be able to recall events in detail that happened years ago.×
Others include Glenn Campbell, Pat Summit, Perry Como, Rita Hayworth, Sugar Ray Robinson, Estelle Getty, and Peter Falk.×