Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014
Health

LeBlanc: Living alone with dementia


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There is an overwhelming number of elderly people living alone with some form of dementia. The truth is we never will get an accurate head count because so many senior citizens live beneath the radar, and alone, trying to fend for themselves. Sadly, even some of their own family members ignore the situation or are wedged in denial until their loved ones become seriously ill or injured. Regrettably, it often takes a tragic occurrence for people to notice something is seriously wrong.

Sometimes hospitalization can be a blessing for these companionless people. At long last they might receive not only a diagnosis but also the attention and recognition they deserve.

Dehydration or accidental over-medicating are the most common causes for a trip to the emergency room, which may result in a home health agency providing overdue companionship and supervision. If these people are truly alone, these professionals may recognize the need for a court appointed, licensed guardian.

Alzheimer’s or other dementia related diseases can advance rapidly in some people, but may be more of a gradual decline in others. Either way the time frame in which to make plans is limited. As the clock ticks, the period of time that it is safe to live alone will dwindle.

It is essential that we pay close attention to our senior citizens, whether in our neighborhoods, churches or even grocery stores. Here are some signs to be on the lookout for:

♦ Have they become uncharacteristically apathetic, pessimistic or overly suspicious?

♦ Have they become isolated, never wanting to go out?

♦ Do their conversations start to ramble or do they frequently repeat themselves?

♦ Are you receiving less phone calls from them?

♦ Noticing stacks of unopened mail or anything else you might think that is out of their norm. Trust your instincts; they are usually correct.

That “senior moment mentality” needs to become a saying from the past. Instead, the present and future should be full of questions and inquiries. It’s better to be apprehensive and stick in our noses than to ignore the situation until something critical happens. And if you know any family members, please contact them.

Ask the senior about whom you’re concerned questions such as, “When was the last time you’ve been to the doctor? Have you talked to your family lately? Where do your children live? Do you need a ride to the grocery store?” Casually try to ascertain any contact numbers without offending them. Don’t be afraid of getting involved. You possibly could be saving their lives!

Being a Good Samaritan is admirable. Helping someone in trouble or distress is something of which to be proud.

For a decade Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father, after his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He can be reached at us41books@bellsouth.net. His newly released book “Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors,” and his other books “While I Still Can” and an expanded edition of “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness,” can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving.com.

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