Fixed Privacy Screens and Dementia Care

Fixed privacy screens can assist staff with the difficult behaviors that are associated with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Dementia, and by extension Alzheimer’s Disease, is a progressive degeneration of the memory centers of the brain. Those afflicted slowly lose the ability to recall their short and long term memories, speak, and care for themselves. Their ability to perform basic activities of daily living becomes progressively impaired, leading eventually to institutionalization and death. Around 10% of all adults worldwide will go on to develop some form of the disease. While there are treatments that may slow down disease progression, there is no known cure.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of Dementia, making up between 50 – 70% of all cases. The cause of the disease is not known, but there does seem to be a strong genetic correlation. The disease generally affects those 65 years of age or older, though a small subset of cases (4-5%) experience an onset of the disease in their mid forties or early fifties. Those suffering from early onset versions of the disease experience a worse prognosis than those who experience a normal onset.

The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of Dementia are almost universally ascribed to stress, illness, or normal ageing. It is important to remember that cognitive impairments are not a part of normal ageing. Short term memory is one of the earliest executive functions affected by the disease process, and can quickly and significantly impair one from performing their activities of daily living. Mild Cognitive Impairment is one of the first diagnoses that an individual can be given prior to a formal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of Dementia.

Short term memory loss associated with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) generally progresses over the course of two to three years to clinical symptoms of early stage Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia. A decreasing vocabulary and issues with recalling language and syntax are one of the tell tale signs that lead to a definitive diagnosis of the disease. While a person at this stage does have significant impairments, they may be able to live independently or with some minor assistance from family or other caregivers.

Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive disorder however, and while some medications may be able to give the appearance of slowing the disease progression down, nothing can stop it in its entirety. Those with the disease will experience a progressive loss of short and long term memory, executive function, and ability to care for themselves. They may also lose the ability to be continent, to the great distress of family. Eventually, those with the disorder will be entirely dependent on others for their activities of daily living, mobility, and nutrition. Soon after this occurs, those with Alzheimer’s Disease may aspirate their food. They often pass away due to pneumonia or infection rather than the disease itself.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia can play a tremendous role in family and end of life strain. Caregivers can often feel as though they are invisible and beholden to their rapidly declining family member, leading to the phenomenon of caregiver burnout. Between the lost productivity of those affected by the disease and their associated caregivers, Alzheimer’s costs the American economy approximately 100 billion dollars annually. Families may find themselves under financial strain as well as emotional as their loved one deteriorates. This most often resolves itself in the institutionalization of the affected individual when families can no longer reasonably care for them.

Those who are institutionalized with the disorder are at a higher risk of behavioral disturbances and an increased mortality rate. There are a multitude of reasons for this, with one of the primary causes being an increase in confusion among institutionalized residents of long term care homes with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Behavioral and psychological issues are common to those in the mid to late stages of the disease, where institutionalization generally occurs. The shock and confusion of losing ones home and independence can exacerbate these pre-existing problems and may lead to the genesis of further behavioral issues or symptoms of depression or despair. Wandering and aggression are common as well, and may be dangerous for the person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, staff, or the community at large.

Caregivers and healthcare staff can develop a plan to ameliorate the behavioral effects of mid to late stage Alzheimer’s or Dementia. One such method includes the use of fixed privacy screens on locked or open dementia care units. Fixed privacy screens can be deployed with imagery printed on them that can be calming to those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Fixed privacy screens can do this through the use of evidence based art design. Images printed on the screens can evoke feelings of calm and peace in those afflicted by Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Fixed privacy screens calming imagery

Calming images are part of evidence based art design.

Fixed privacy screens can replace traditional hospital privacy curtains in resident’s rooms. Depending on the package that the resident or their substitute decision maker have chosen for their care, screens in the rooms of residents can be printed with imagery that reminds the resident of their former life. An easy example of this can be a photograph of the resident’s former bedroom, kitchen, or living area. This can serve to make the resident feel more at home when they are going through a period of confusion, and may reduce their propensity towards wandering. It may also serve to improve their overall mental health by reducing feelings of helplessness and depression. Fixed privacy screens can also serve as a safer alternative to traditional hospital privacy curtains, both in their role in reducing hospital acquired infections and in their overall inability to be moved by residents by mistake.

Fixed privacy screens can help your Alzheimer’s/Dementia or long term care unit. Learn more by contacting us today.

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