World Alzheimer’s awareness month is not only dedicated to people or families who are affected by this disease but also for all of us who may come in contact with someone who has dementia  in the future but are not necessarily aware what to do and the resources available for support.

Every day, I see many “crisis” admissions to nursing homes because families have ignored the progressive declining nature of the disease and waited to the very last minute when their loved one is hastily admitted to a nursing home – often without warning, often without preparation and often without proper understanding. This is usually the case where falls and fractures occur within the first 24 hours, behaviour or agitation escalates and the family dynamics become very tensed.  Everyone is on the edge with a mix of feelings from denial and guilt to confusion as to how and why their loved one has changed so much…. and sometimes to a complete stranger.

This is not the best scenario for our love ones with dementia.

Clearly we need to increase awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.  The Canadian Pharmacists Association has summarized many resources for both pharmacists and the public here.  There is a need to better support dementia care in the community and provide better education as to what it is and what everyone can do to help.

As part of the dementia care team, pharmacists can do the following:

  • Identify signs of dementia
  • Screening for dementia
  • Talking about dementia care
  • Medication Management for patients with dementia
  • Helping make drugs easier to obtain and take
  • Support for other health problems
  • Support for health beyond medications

I think the main focus is to help identify signs of dementia. Often family members are biased in their subjective judgement whether their parents are having early signs of dementia or simply aging.  This is where pharmacists in the community may offer a more objective view and help educate on many screening tools to help with the assessment. The Alzheimer’s society has also outlined the main difference between normal aging and dementia here.

Dementia is a disease not only affects the patient’s cognition, his or her activities of daily living including feeding, bathing and self care but more importantly impacts on the family members who often become the caregivers.  They are at very high risk of caregiver burnout before they are even aware of it. As such, they need all the resources and support that are available to them. But most importantly, everyone needs to be aware of the disease and how and what can be done to more effectively manage it.

Please check out the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada for the many resources that are available to you or anyone else who may benefit from learning about the condition.

 

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