DCND – (November 2018)- November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and we are focusing on improving safety for patients with the disease. One of our providers, Brandi Ballantyne, DNP just completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree and made safety and dementia her doctoral project.
“Like many other families, I have experienced the difficulties of caring for a family member with dementia. I am not alone in this experience. In fact, there are an estimated 5 million individuals in the United States with dementia. This number is expected to rise as Americans surviving into their 80s, 90s and beyond is expected to grow dramatically due to medical advances, as well as social and environmental conditions,” said Ballantyne.
“As my family member progressed further with her dementia, I remember the struggles we faced to prevent an accidental injury. This included everything from ensuring burners on the stove were not left on, to installing door alarms when she started to wander outside the house. Individuals with dementia have twice as many hospital admissions compared to their peers with 26% of these hospitalizations due to injury, fall, or syncope.”
What was the biggest safety issue you found?
Simple day to day risks: errors with medication, leaving the stove on, getting lost in familiar places, making poor decisions while driving, and increased mistakes with paying bills and balancing a checkbook.
How can someone overcome that?
Improving safety in patients with dementia requires education, communication, and the use of community resources. Proactive care and early recognition of patient risks to safety can reduce emergency room visits and prevent injury.
Are there any resources available?
There are numerous resources available to patients and families. I recommend starting with their local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Patients and families can access this information online or by calling the 24-hour hotline at 1-800-272-3900. I am always happy to provide an official referral and have a representative from the Alzheimer’s Association contact a family member to discuss resources available to them. Additionally, the county Area Agency on Aging is another great resource for any older adult, regardless of diagnosis.
What can a caregiver do to improve safety?
Communicate with your provider! Discuss concerns you have and barriers you are facing. Let us assist you with identifying risks and find supportive resources. Caregiver burnout is a risk to the patient and the caregivers themselves. Dementia is a progressive cognitive decline leading to functional impairment, loss of memory, and diminished judgement and insight. It is important to remain proactive and be prepared for future needs, and not wait for an injury or hospitalization to occur.
What can society do?
Support friends and family who have dementia or are taking care of a loved one with dementia. Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease. Get involved through volunteering or donate to dementia research.