With the rising population of seniors in the Lehigh Valley, the use of pills, liquids, and other medications is on the rise. Many are prescribed by healthcare professionals, while others can be purchased off-the-shelf from pharmacies and even convenience stores, without prescriptions. As new remedies are offered and brand names increase, there can be much confusion when it comes to keeping up with essential medications and their requirements.
“Polypharmacy” is a word describing, in general, the use of multiple medications to treat one or more conditions. As you can imagine, great caution is needed to balance the meds and keep up with correct dosages. This can be difficult enough for anyone, and a special concern for someone with Alzheimer's or other dementia. The WHO estimates that 50% of patients with chronic illnesses do not take their meds as prescribed, with 10% of hospital admissions and 23% of nursing home admissions being due to what is called “nonadherence.”
Many spouses and children caring for an aging senior in early stage Alzheimer’s disease or dementia seek resources to help their loved one. As the disease impacts more people, new resources and services emerge. A relatively new concept is a memory care community.
A memory care community is a senior living facility, either a personal care home or assisted living facility, where residents have a semi-private or private suite and receive meals and assistance with daily living activities. This can include help with bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and other personal activities. These communities also provide additional services such as activities programming, medical management, transportation and amenities throughout the building including a salon, barber shop, and more. Some medical services can be provided on site by third party medical professionals such are podiatry, physical, speech and occupational therapy.
What sets memory care living apart from assisted living or senior living is that the building, facilities, staff and programming are all equipped and designed to handle older adults with cognitive issues like dementia. Staff is trained in communicating with, prompting and catering to the unique needs of their residents. Activities directors also receive training and offer programming geared toward maximizing the individual’s remaining cognition. Direct care employees must display the right temperament, empathy and patience to work with residents with Alzheimer’s. Simple technique and approaches to care are needed to redirect, encourage, and offer patience to those living with dementia.
People in the Emmaus / Lehigh Valley area — vaccinated or not — are not immune to the various types of fraud, especially when it comes to emotion-laden health issues. Medicare recipients are prone to scams, and we hope the following advice from Medicare.gov will inoculate our neighbors against those who prey on our fears and circumstances.
Note: Medicare covers the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to you, so if anyone asks you to share your Medicare Number or pay for access to the vaccine, you can bet it’s a scam.
We’ve come a long way in treating conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s, and South Mountain Memory Care in Emmaus, Lehigh Valley, PA, is at the leading edge. Gone are the days when anyone with a “mental disorder” was tucked away in an institution like a subhuman. Twenty-five years ago, there was much less written or even talked about with regard to dementia care, and hospital-like long-term care facilities focused on addressing the basic physical needs of their residents. Certain behaviors associated with dementia, such as agitation, were viewed as problems that often were treated with psychotropic drugs. Communities like South Mountain Memory Care work hard to remove the stigma of dementia and provide their residents with the dignity, comfort, and care they need and deserve.
The old joke goes, “An interviewer approached a man on the street and said, ‘The two greatest problems with society are ignorance and apathy. Do you agree?’ The man responded, ‘I don’t know and I don’t care!’”
There is nothing funny about apathy, but it affects about 90% of dementia patients sooner or later. Yet research often doesn’t seem to care. It is often overlooked because it is not as noticeable or disruptive as aggression and other behaviors, and is distinct from depression.
Apathy is a loss of interest and emotions. It can be distressing for families, and is linked with more severe dementia and worse clinical symptoms. Faster decline and care problems can result. Apathy is the most common symptom of dementia, with a bigger impact than memory loss.