Personal Support Worker

What Students in PSW Training Need to Know About Alzheimer’s

April 06, 2018

psw working with patient

Alzheimer’s Disease, also known as AD, represents the most prevalent form of dementia amongst older individuals. Alzheimer’s is classed as a neurodegenerative disease, in that it is characterized by continual loss of mental functionality due to the degradation of brain neurons. It is currently regarded as incurable. Well-known amongst the general public, Personal Support Workers (PSWs) working in retirement communities or providing live-in care should be especially aware of the characteristics and potential impact that Alzheimer’s can have on individuals in their care.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Breaking Down How Symptoms Develop

The condition we now recognize as Alzheimer’s was first diagnosed in modern times by German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer, who published findings regarding a dementia-affected patient of his, named Auguste Deter, in 1906. Post-mortem examination by Alzheimer showed a buildup of amloyd plaques in the patient’s brain—which are now very closely associated with the development of Alzheimer’s. The condition has gone on to be recognized across the world, with an estimated 44 million people worldwide suffering from the condition.

psw comforting patient

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s can manifest themselves in a variety of ways

Alzheimer’s is characterized by a steady deterioration of memory in individuals affected by it. Those with the disease often find it hard to recall events and recognize individuals from their past. PSWs may note a progression amongst individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s in their care—going from isolated incidents of not being able to recall names and events, to an inability to recognize family members and friends, as well difficulty in speaking, reading, and writing. Some individuals suffering from more advanced Alzheimer’s can exhibit a tendency to wander, or act out in frustration while dealing with the symptoms of the disease. In the final terminal stages of the disease, clients may lose control of bodily functions.

Prevalence of Alzheimer’s in Facilities Where Professionals With PSW Training Work

Alzheimer’s is very closely associated with older individuals. The disease has been recognized by Alzheimer Society of Canada as affecting 5 per cent of Canadians over the age of 65, and 25 per cent of those over 85. This means that grads of personal support worker courses who work with individuals of a more advanced age should be both familiar with and prepared to provide care to people with Alzheimer’s, as well as being on the lookout for early signs of the disease.

The benefits of early detection of Alzheimer’s are considerable. While it remains a terminal condition, early diagnosis provides an opportunity for those with the disease to come to terms with the realities of the condition, spend time with friends and family, and to record memories if so desired. Additionally, this provides more time for proscribed courses of drugs or treatment processes to be put in place and potentially slow the effects of the disease. Finally, early detection will allow staff to better develop individual care strategies to suit each unique client who experiences Alzheimer’s.

Grads of Personal Support Worker Courses Can Help Clients With This Condition

Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s tend to require considerable help and assistance from professionals with PSW training . The ideal goal for PSWs is to continue to be recognized as a non-threatening and helpful presence, even as the condition progresses. This may not be fully attainable in every case—but in developing a relationship that emphasizes care, safety, and stress-avoidance, a strong foundation for further care can be built. PSWs should also prepare to help those with more advanced Alzheimer’s with tasks such as brushing teeth, toiletry, dressing, and during mealtimes.

psw talking with patient

PSWs can help clients with Alzheimer’s as their condition progresses

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