November 2, 2004
The caregiver is just trying to brush the woman’s teeth.
But to a person with advanced dementia, who recognizes neither the person nor the toothbrush, this is a stranger coming at her mouth with a sharp object.
It’s no wonder a battle may ensue.
The number of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias is estimated at 4.5 million — including 60,000 in Maricopa County — and is expected to nearly quadruple by 2050. Hospice of the Valley has developed a nationally recognized program to help people care for those with advanced dementia, and will share highlights Nov. 18 at two Valley seminars.
"We are going to show them new, creative ways to add quality of life to the people they care for," said Dr. Gillian Hamilton, a geriatrician and medical director for Hospice of the Valley.
"And we hope to improve their quality of life, also," Hamilton said.
The hospice advanced dementia care program focuses on comfort and respect, with the understanding that all behaviors are efforts to communicate some unmet need.
The more caregivers can know the person and their limitations from this brainwithering disease, the better they can care for them.
That includes family caregivers who, without training, may not fully understand the disease’s progression.
"I don’t think you can do good dementia care without knowing the person," hospice nurse Jan Dougherty told a group of Scottsdale caregivers recently.
Many people with dementia have aches and pains that can be eased with over-thecounter pain medication.
"We assume they can tell us when they have pain," Dougherty said. "They can’t."
Two sessions will be held, one at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and another in the West Valley.
A $5 minimum donation is suggested and reservations should be made by Friday.
Hamilton and Dougherty will be joined by Karen Stobbe, who uses improvisational theater to teach and energize dementia caregivers.
Workshop: To register for the Hospice of the Valley’s two "A Moment for Dementia" workshops on Nov. 18, call (602) 636-6363 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday.