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How to Handle a Patient With Alzheimer's Disease

How to Handle a Patient With Alzheimer's Disease

Marijke Durning | NursingLink

Alzheimer’s doesn’t play favorites. The soccer mom who was president of a neighborhood volunteer organization in years past may now be an angry woman, pacing the floor, trying to “escape” from the facility where she now lives. The professor who held court in front of thousands of students over the years may now be unable to lift the spoon to his mouth, forgetting how to eat. And the families sit by, unable to understand their loved one’s downward spiral.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.3 million people in the United States have AD today. These people are being cared for by 10.9 million unpaid caregivers, and which is costing society 172 million dollars annually to help care for and treat patients with AD. When a nurse comes into contact with someone with AD, chances are the disease has progressed for quite a while and has already made a significant impact not only on the patient, but on the patient’s family, as well.

Taking those these numbers into account, nurses who care for people with AD can – and do – affect millions of lives, including patients, family members, and caregivers.

The Emergency Room

The emergency room: You’d be hard pressed to find many spots in the community that are as fast paced as an emergency room. But, among the dramatic car accident victims and the tragic heart attacks and strokes, sometimes a little old lady – say Molly – is brought to you because she needs your help.

It’s easy to dismiss patients like Molly. They’re old, they’re sick, and they’re forgetful. They’re not as exciting as the next patient, plus, there isn’t much you can do for them. But, Molly – and those like her – need our help and care just as much as the next patient. The need may not be as immediate or as life-saving as with other patients, but the need is there.

Sadly, sometimes patients like Molly are brought to an emergency room to be “dumped.” By leaving Molly at the hospital, the family or friends feel that Molly’s responsibility and care is no longer theirs. Situations like Molly’s can become emotional for nurses. A nurse may be angry at the family for “dumping” Molly, or resent Molly for taking up another patient’s place. At the same time, a nurse may feel that Molly is in a safer place at the hospital.

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