January is Alzheimer Awareness Month
Because Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are progressive in nature, it is inevitable that verbal communication between a patient and their Denturist will become problematic and eventually impossible. In practical terms, this means that your loved one may not be able to express what they are feeling, if they have discomfort, or what they think is causing their discomfort.
When you reach this stage in the progression of the disease, the caregiver will become responsible to communicate with the Denturist about a patient’s denture and oral health. The Denturist will provide recommendations for various treatments or interventions based on the information you provide.
If you have assumed responsibility for your loved one’s personal care, what steps can you take to best ensure that you’re providing accurate, helpful information to their dental health care provider?
Look for behavioural changes
When you cannot rely on your loved one telling you that they are experiencing denture problems or discomfort, behavioural changes may provide helpful clues.
Some changes in a person’s behaviour may not seem related to dental problems but we encourage you to make note of them anyway:
- Disturbed sleep
- Aggressive behavior
- Increased restlessness
- Moaning or shouting
- Refusal to participate in daily activities
Other changes may be more directly related to dental discomfort:
- Refusal to eat
- Leaving dentures out when they had previously worn them
- Pulling at the face or mouth
As soon as you observe any of these changes in your loved one’s behavior, make a note of it. Write down as many details you can think of, such as:
- The date, day of the week, and the time of day – if behavioural issues occur mainly at a specific time or on a certain day, this may help you identify patterns related to that behavioural change.
- The setting – if problems seem to crop up in the same place or during the same activity, this will also provide you with information to help get to the root of the problem. For example, was it at meal time, during an activity, or did something else happen in the person’s day?
- Others involved – there may be particular individuals that trigger behavioural changes. For example, if your loved one routinely declines oral care support from a specific caregiver, that may provide a clue for you to follow up on.
- The larger picture – What has the rest of this person’s day looked like? Have they had a good balance of activity and rest? Were they involved with activities they enjoy? Did they have any other problems that day? Knowing a bit about your loved one’s overall day can help to pinpoint a problem’s cause.
- What happened – listing the basic details will be helpful for later recall and sharing with health care professionals.
Contact your loved one’s Denturist
Has your loved one starts to exhibit any of the behavioural changes mentioned above? Do you suspect that oral or denture discomfort is involved? Schedule an appointment with their Denturist.
Bring the notes you have made to this appointment and be prepared to discuss your observations with the Denturist.
The Denturist will discuss the situation with you and conduct an examination of the patient’s oral structures and dentures. This dental assessment will be essential in helping to determine if a denture-related issue is causing the change in behaviour. If this is the case, the Denturist will recommend appropriate dental interventions that can be made to correct the situation.
Good denture and oral health can make eating and digesting food easier for an Alzheimer’s patient, improving their overall quality of life. And as Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one will depend on you more and more for assistance with dental care. We encourage you to keep connected with a Denturist for assistance, information, and support to help you in your dental caregiving tasks.