A Hallmark of Alzheimer’s

alzheimers learning

They Can’t Learn New Information

In the early stages of the Alzheimer’s journey, family and friends are likely to notice but also dismiss changes in their loved one. Short term memory issues, personality changes and episodes of poor judgement are noticeable but not notable.

Initially, I too described my mother’s atypical behaviors as “goofy”, not the red flag warmings of someone in jeopardy.

As time advances, however, declining memory and judgement evolve into more significant and safety serious concerns. Many families, if they’re within a reasonable geographic radius, may try to keep their mom/dad/aunt at home. It’s a logistical nightmare but it can be done.

The family’s best intentions, however, will probably fail because of the nature of the individual’s disease. Someone with mobility issues or very ill medically, but still alert and oriented, will at least process the safety concerns. They might be non-compliant and hobble up the stairs anyway or refuse to take their meds, but being stubborn is a different problem!

Maintaining Safety

Eventually someone with Alzheimer’s will require 24 hour a day supervision; they cannot be left alone.

Locks: Before the end stages, when awareness and judgement wax and wane, family caregivers often try anything and everything to keep “Mom” safe at home. Although their motives are genuine, the results are not. “Mom” by nature of the disease itself, cannot learn how to manage new locks, new keys, a new system. They can’t read written instructions or process directions.

Safety: No matter how many ways a caregiver instructs their loved with dementia not to bathe alone or not to go down the stairs, those warnings are lost on someone with Alzheimer’s. “Just wait until I get here tomorrow Mom and I’ll help you” is probably met with an “Okay” response and/or head nod and then the concept is gone.

Of course I believed my mother when she said she’d be fine. From I Will Never Forget:

“As the adult, the nebulous abyss of being a parent to your parent is a delicate responsibility. Balancing respect and autonomy and naturally expecting them to be accurate when they tell you, “I’ll be fine” is a daunting challenge. Somewhere deep down, you know it’s not true. They are no longer “fine.”

Families, caregivers, friends struggle with accepting the inevitable decline of someone they care about.

Nothing “new”; nothing “safer”; no verbal or written instructions, no diagrams, no repeated warnings, etc., resonates with someone with Alzheimer’s. The disease attacks memory, judgement and reasoning and no environmental modification will substitute for the needed 24-hour care/supervision.

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Elaine C.Pereira

About Elaine C.Pereira

Elaine retired in June 2010 as a school Occupational Therapist where she worked with special needs children. She lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband, Joe. Between them, they have five children — Joe has three sons and Elaine has twin daughters-and soon-to-be five grandchildren. Elaine has a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Wayne State University. Elaine is the author of I Will Never Forget and she was inspired to tell her mother’s incredible story in part to help other caregivers coping with memory loss issues in their loved ones. I Will Never Forget

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