Williamsport, PA (PRWEB) June 01, 2012
Alzheimer’s disease has captured attention across the U.S. with the recent rollout of the plan for the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), resulting from projections that an additional 10 million people will suffer from the disease in coming decades. More than five million Americans have currently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive brain disorder that affects the thought process and memory. About 280,000 of those diagnosed are residents of Pennsylvania. Strategic planning to address that growth at The Willows Alzheimer’s Unit in northcentral Pennsylvania is in very early stages, according to Anne Holladay, certified nursing home administrator of Susquehanna Health’s (SH) Skilled Nursing Unit at Muncy Valley Hospital (MVH), Muncy, PA.
“Susquehanna Health is really just in the talking phase about options for future growth and development,” said Holladay. The Willows assists patients in the early and middle stages of dementia. The facility opened in 2003 and is built on a social model that engages patients. “The Willows is designed following specifications from the Alzheimer’s Association so we are able to provide the best care,” said Holladay. This 12-bed unit offers a calming, home-like environment with the highest staffing ratios in Lycoming County (during the day, a ratio of one staff person to four patients is the norm according to Holladay).
“When we started planning this unit, I kind of claimed it as my own,” said Dena Dunlap, LPN. “One of our roles is to keep patients sufficiently stimulated in order to provide the best possible quality of life,” she explained. Alzheimer’s patients, according to Holladay, can have a lot of energy. As a result, they have a tendency to wander off when disoriented. Positive stimulation and frequent activities help reduce the incidence of wandering to walk off that energy. “Our staff is specially trained in caring for dementia patients,” Holladay explained. “We work to help slow the progression of the disease.”
“In providing our patients with the extra attention they need, we’ve seen great things happen at The Willows,” said Dunlap. Examples of successes in helping to slow the disease’s progression include things like working with wheelchair-bound patients to help them walk more independently with a walker to educating family members and encouraging their participation in a patient’s progress. “The family is a very important part of what works,” said Dunlap.
“One of the complaints that I hear from family members is in regard to repetition of questions. Because the patient’s short-term memory is very poor, they often repeat questions,” Dunlap said. The best “treatment” is for a family member to answer consistently, using the same words to prevent confusion. “Be patient, speak slowly and clearly and allow the patient time to process because they are not able to make connections as quickly as they used to,” explained Dunlap.
The disease can also adversely affect eating habits, according to Dunlap. “Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may no longer recognize hunger and, as a result, have poor nutrition. On the other hand, if they are eating regularly, they may not realize they are full. This results in overeating and weight gain,” she explained.
As with many other incurable diseases, early detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is most effective. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 10 warning signs include:
Memory loss that affects daily activities
Trouble problem-solving (e.g., managing a checkbook or following a familiar recipe)
Difficulty with common tasks (e.g., driving to the store)
Time or place confusion
Trouble interpreting visual images (e.g., determining distance between objects)
Communication problems (e.g., trouble recalling words to speak or write fluently)
Frequently losing or misplacing items
Lack of good judgement (e.g., mismanaging money or poor hygiene)
Mood or personality changes
Anyone who suspects they or a family member may be suffering symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease should consult their primary care physician. Additional information on Alzheimer’s disease is available in the online health library at SusquehannaHealth.org.
For additional help, SH offers an Alzheimer’s support group that is also open to the community. The group meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 pm in the MVH cafeteria. The meetings provide an open forum for participants to share challenges and care solutions as well as special speakers to train and educate on topics specific to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
About Susquehanna Health
Susquehanna Health is a three-hospital integrated health system including Divine Providence Hospital, Muncy Valley Hospital and Williamsport Regional Medical Center located in northcentral Pennsylvania. Serving patients from an 11-county region, Susquehanna Health is a healthcare leader and has been recognized at the national and state levels for quality of care. Susquehanna Health offers a wide array of services that include cancer treatment, heart and vascular care/heart surgery, neurosciences including neurosurgery, orthopedics, urology, OB/GYN, gastrointestinal services, behavioral health, physical rehabilitation, home care, long term care, assisted living and paramedic/ambulance services.