Oral Hygiene

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If Only I Can Remember By Regina Posvar

Q: Good Morning Nurse, my mom has Alzheimer’s and her caregiver struggles to help my mom brush her teeth. She doesn’t brush her teeth anymore. My mom has her own teeth and I am worried that this behaviour will be a problem in the future. How can I help my caregiver get my mom to brush her teeth?

A: Oral hygiene is so important to maintain with people living with dementia. It is a common challenge and can be accomplished. There are great videos with International Caregivers Association (ICA) and I encourage you and your caregiver to view them.

In the meantime there may be several reasons why your mom is not cooperating. It can be things like:
• She doesn’t understand the task
• She cannot see well what you are wanting her to do
• She may be in discomfort
• Caregiver approach

I am not sure what level of progression your mom is experiencing as there are different approaches to help a person with dementia function at their optimal best. Check your own approach and try to view it from your mom’s perspective with someone coming at them with a stick being shoved into her mouth. She may not recognize a toothbrush or she may understand it but not know what to do. Trying to put it in her mouth and she is not understanding will cause her to push the caregiver away. Encourage your caregiver to get your mom’s full attention and demonstrate or model brushing your own teeth and then point to hers and motion her to do the same. She may get it that way.

Keep in mind her mood before you get her to the bathroom. Make it a pleasant experience not a demanding task.

Q: Dear Regina, I work full time and do not have family here to help me with my dad who has Alzheimer. He is 82 and I am 63. I am realizing I cannot leave him alone anymore. He is not able to care for himself and he is starting to wander inappropriately dressed down the road. I fear they will think he is mad and pick him up to the mental care. I haven’t had time to call but I will. For now can you think of something I can do to keep him safe. What is your organization about and can they help in this situation?

A: We represent two organizations in St Lucia that can assist in a few different ways. The first is recommendation for safety: 1) speak to your neighbors and a church and see if someone can be extended eyes for you while you try to find a more permanent solution. 2) if you live near La Clery there is an adult day centre there. Get information to see if you can take him there while you are at work. 3) Notify the N.I.C.E. for a health aid in your area. 4) If you are able to afford private care we do have a small group of trained caregivers available.

Both Angels of the West Indies and Saint Lucia Alzheimer’s Association are working on raising funds to educate and train families, volunteers and caregivers with dementia training. The programmes have different agendas and criteria to help families. The Respite programme is one of the main priorities to help those families like yourself that need safety care and relief of caregiving. The respite programme is pending while volunteers and caregivers in training. In the meantime we can go to the home of the person with dementia and assess the person with dementia and the environment and recommend safety solutions and ongoing caregiver tips and support.

Send questions and stories to [email protected] or text 758-496-4509.

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