The Power of Coping Skills and Non-pharmacological Techniques

The obvious about using coping tools and non-pharmacological techniques for mood issues or behavioral concerns is that the person receiving these are not faced with experiencing many side effects with the potential to cause more problems when taking medications instead. For example, if I'm anxious and I take an anti-anxiety medication, sure I might feel less anxious, however, I may also become unproductive that day, sleep more than usual, and then feel irritable and even more anxious as it wears off. Reason being, I haven't actually dealt with what caused my anxiety in the first place! Now, in the event the person is taking medications, even reaching for coping tools or the caregiver using non-pharmacological approaches will reduce the amount of or chances for side effects if PRN, or as needed, medication was being used on top of their routine medication regimen.

However, there are two other bonuses to regularly using coping tools and non-pharmacological techniques:

1. It...

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The Prescribing Cascade

"I'm having difficulty sleeping, doc." Robert's physician prescribed a sleeping aide so Robert can sleep better at the long-term care facility he resides. Then, Robert starts to feel irritable in the morning when he awakes. Subsequently, he is prescribed an anti-anxiety medication to take in the morning and as needed. Roberts starts taking the anti-anxiety medication and then starts to feel more sleepy during the day, less productive and motivated, groggy, and having difficulty concentrating. He's isolating more in his room and not spending time doing the things he used to like to do. And because he is sleeping more during the day, he isn't sleeping much at night, even though he continues to take the sleep aide that his physician prescribed. He lets his physician know that he has been sleeping more than usual, not as sociable as he used to be, is having difficulty concentrating, and unmotivated. His physician then prescribes Robert an anti-depressant...When does it stop?!

A side...

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A Dementia Case Study in Treating Clean: My Name is Betty

"Betty was having a particularly tough afternoon. As the hours wore on, she started to become agitated with the people around her. She was wandering with an angry look, cursing, unwilling to listen, and trying to push people away if they became physically close. Betty repeated to herself, 'I want to go home; I want to go home.'

I stepped in to help calm Betty and prevent any further escalation. Approaching Betty gently, I presented myself in a calm manner with a smile on my face. I spoke to Betty in a calm, monotone voice. I played soothing sounds, used a lavender essential oil blend aromatically, and gave her a light touch so she knew that she was safe. Betty calmed down within minutes and even wanted to spend more time together."

Betty lived in a memory care facility. Appealing to Betty’s senses helped to deescalate the moment (visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile stimulation) and made her feel calm, while it made me feel confident and competent for helping her....

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Clean Dementia Care

In the effort to think, feel, treat, and heal clean, how does this apply to dementia care. It's pretty typical that as part of the disease process, those with dementia will display a number of behavioral symptoms as a way to communicate. These behavioral symptoms mean something. The individual may be hungry, thirsty, tired, in pain, or needs to use the bathroom. Or the individual might be anxious, sad, angry, scared, or bored. However, sometimes these behavioral symptoms put the individual and their care partners at risk for injury. It's important as care providers that we help to anticipate what the individuals in our care need so they don't have to act out to show us they need something. However, when the individual with dementia does act out we need to recognize what's happening and intervene.

Unfortunately, often times an as needed psychotropic medication is used immediately at hopes to stop the behavior. Essentially it slows down the individual and sometimes even makes them...

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Is Your Community CLEAN?

As time progresses, we think it is safe to say that we are maneuvering under a strict cleanliness guide. At the very least, it is the one thing we know for sure.

Unfortunately, COVID has presented challenges in communities that have been difficult to navigate. Each day, we struggle with deciding our next steps as the unknown is great. Emotionally and physically, we are challenged as each day passes to create a safe environment. Statistically, the vintage folks are at a much higher risk, but we believe that natural solutions can be quite effective and consoling.

We have been extremely impressed with some implementations that have been occurring in communities and facilities. Essential oils and aromatherapy have been used for thousands of years and can be added to aid in cleanliness. This tool is popping up more and more in the medical community as a way to aid them for their patient care. It is such a positive step in the direction to supporting the body and brain at being...
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The Road to Recovery - "Got Tools?"

“It’s going to be ok. I am here for you. You will be at peace. Hail Mary full of grace…” I’m examining her face. She has such a beautiful glow to her skin, as if she aged in reverse in a matter of hours. She appears at peace, but she has shallow breathing. Her mouth open; eyes open but focused on heaven. Although she has had dementia for several years, the coronavirus has chosen her. I wish her life didn’t have to end this way. I rub her hand with my plastic covered thumb as it’s cupped in hers. As she’s passing, there is nothing I can do, as these were her wishes. All of sudden, I wake up drenched in sweat, breathing heavy. Within a few seconds, I realized I was just dreaming, but was I really?

Working with individuals with dementia who have contracted COVID-19 has been rewarding yet incredibly challenging. After a few of these nightmares, I realized quite quickly, I don’t want to go down this road again. I experienced PTSD...

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Anxiety in Dementia

Anxiety and worry will show up differently for our family, patients and clients who have dementia. It would be great if they could just say, “I’m feeling really anxious right now.” To recognize and then verbalize it is something we might expect but won’t get. If we continue to expect this to happen, then this in of itself leaves us as caregivers endlessly frustrated. I mean, many of us don’t recognize and verbalize it unless we have really good insight. How would we expect people with dementia to do this?

So why can’t they just tell us? Unfortunately, the skills needed to do just this simple task are dwindling, like insight, good judgement, problem-solving, anticipating risks and language, because the parts of the brain that manage and control these skills are affected by the disease little by little. 

Therefore, instead of words, individuals with dementia are going to show us in other ways that they are anxious. For instance, they might...

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What is Aromatherapy?

     Aromatherapy is an intervention that I not only use personally for myself and my family but also for my patients and clients. I wanted to share an excerpt from my new book that will launch an innovative dementia care model in Spring 2021, being published by Johns Hopkins University.

    ‘Aromatherapy is a relatively safe, all-natural use of essential oils to provide healing of the mind, body, and spirit. Essential oil use can be a form of olfactory, gustatory (taste), and tactile (touch) stimulation. Although research has shown that smell may decrease as Alzheimer disease progresses, the nose is still an entry way for the sensory stimuli of essential oils because the nasal cavity and nerve cells in the nasal lining are the closest entry to the limbic system. This connection between the sense of smell and the limbic system accounts for influence of essential oils on mood and memory. When using essential oils, they want to restore the body back to...

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