Improving the Medical Experience of a Patient with Alzheimer's or Other Memory Loss

Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 1/6/2012

Memory loss has been a subject that many readers have written to me about over the past couple of months,  Most discovered during a holiday visit with a parent or grandparent that their loved one was "more forgetful", "less engaged" and "more fearful" than their last visit home.  Several of my readers asked for advice about lessening the fear and confusion associated with doctor's visits or medical procedures.  

One of my LinkedIn friends is Viki Kind. She is the author of The Caregiver's Path to Compassionate Decision Making.  I found this advice on her website and I thought I would share it with you.CARGIVER'S PATH TO COMPASSIONATE DECISION MAKING
When a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is going to have a medical test or procedure, how can we help the person to feel less frightened and to minimize any suffering? If the patient is struggling to understand what will be happening to them, do a practice run-through and show the person the room where the test will happen. Or find a book with pictures that will help him understand what you are talking about. If the person with diminished capacity is afraid of being alone, you may want to introduce him to the nurses who will be working that day. For my dad, we tape-recorded the doctor’s explanations so he could listen to the information over and over again until he felt more comfortable.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the patient may be experiencing symptoms that affect his or her participation. These symptoms could be pain, side effects of medications, loss of hearing or sight, lack of sleep, an undiagnosed illness and grief, to name a few. Find out what can be done to relieve these symptoms to make it easier for the individual to participate in the process. Ultimately, our goal is to think about the quality-of-life questions from the person’s perspective as he or she will experience the consequences of our decisions.

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