Living in the Lehigh Valley we see how families interact, especially the relationships that grandparents have with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, not every child has the opportunity to spend time and really know their grandparents. This is attributed to several factors including having a deceased grandparent, geographic separation, and increasingly more common --- the effects of dementia.
Dementia robs an individual of their personality and dramatically alters the relationships of those around them – spouses, children, and grandchildren. Dementia is particularly painful for those who witness the harrowing transformation from who they were into who they are with dementia. The silver lining is that they had the opportunity to know the individual. This is not true for some grandchildren.
We asked one of the most respected dementia educators in world, Teepa Snow, who trains health and senior professionals across the nation, what advice she has for grandchild / grandparent interaction.
How can families encourage interaction between a grandchild and a grandparent with dementia?
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.
Below are questions that are frequently asked about Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. If you suspect that your loved one has cognitive issues we encourage you to seek professional help and a diagnosis. If dementia is present, a care plan will address their needs to maximize the person's life.
What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. It begins slowly and gets worse over time. Currently, it has no cure. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older people.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a loss of thinking, remembering, and reasoning skills that interfere with a person’s daily life and activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Dementia ranges in severity from the mild stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for care.
What is typically the first sign of Alzheimer's disease?
Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease, though different people may have different initial symptoms. A decline in other aspects of thinking, such as finding the right words, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.