Alzheimer’s disease is the leading form of dementia found in elderly patients marked by the slow degeneration of person’s cognitive function due to impaired communication between nerve cells in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is associated with severe loss of memory and changes in behavior. As the disease progresses, the symptoms change and can become more exaggerated, especially as the individual’s memories become more and more short term.
It’s estimated that over 46 million people in the world are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. There are over 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide, with reports of one new case every 3.2 seconds.
What can families do to help their loved ones living with the condition?
For someone suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or Dementia who is living at home or is in a 24 hour care facility, their families repeatedly find that other complications can arise affecting their health, quality of life and ultimately their comfort and happiness. Read on to find out how these extra complications can often be addressed through proper seating and correct posture.
- Reduced mobility
As the disease progresses, some sufferers may lose their ability to stand, walk and get themselves into bed or a chair. Paired with their cognitive decline, these physical complications put your family member at a higher risk of falling and injuries if they try to get up and move around frequently.
There has been much work to show positive results in the area of falls reduction due to the correct prescription of seating, in some cases without the need for restraints like seatbelts and harnesses. To accommodate the reduction in a person’s strength, Seating Matters chair features like a motorized tilt (remote operated) can help assist someone to stand from their chair. Another option is for a caregiver to take off one of the removable chair arms and physically assist the person with standing and sitting.
An additional option to keep your loved one safely seated is to make use of back angle recline and tilt which can help to improve their safety in the chair. However, it is important to note that in some circumstances and in some locations around the world, tilt can be seen as a restraint. This, or any other method used to restrict a persons movement, mobility or ability to get out of their chair should be carefully considered before being employed.**
- Complications with breathing and recurring lung infections
A poor posture being slouched in a chair or leaning to one side can lead to many health complications, for example, you may notice that your family member suffers from recurring lung infections, or tires of talking much more quickly than they used to.
The adjustment and support from a Seating Matters chair with various accessories and additions such as lateral supports, can often support the body and help maintain correct posture. This can enable the patient to breathe properly without their lung capacity being lessened by a side effect of poor posture, and therefore are likely to experience fewer lung infections and overall increased respiratory function.
- Digestive and Urinary Tract Problems
Incorrect posture and unsuitable support from a chair can negatively impact on a patient’s physiological functions and can lead to recurring digestive complications including urinary infections, kidney infections and bowel impactions. Use of correct seating can give the body’s organs the room they need to perform optimally.
In the later stages of their illness, many people experience loss of bladder and bowel control. It is up to the caregiver to determine how they will help maintain a person’s dignity, but it is wise to ensure that any fabrics on furniture and clothing used by your loved one is easy to remove and clean.
All Seating Matters chairs are lined with a black medical support material known as Dartex, as well as hard-wearing vinyl on outer sides of the chair. The seats, arm covers and footplate, can be removed and cleaned with hospital grade cleaning agents without damaging the material. We are careful to maintain strict hospital sanitation and disease control standards, keeping our chairs free of Velcro and material that can trap bacteria.
- Pressure Ulcers/Skin Breakdown
Decreased mobility in patients who are resigned to sitting for long periods of time, such as patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, can lead to decreased oxygen levels in the blood. In the worst case scenario, this can lead to the development of pressure ulcers in bony prominence's of the body. This can pose a serious threat to life, especially in the elderly.
Quality of Life
- Feeding Problems
Incorrect posture can impact on a patient’s ability to swallow therefore they can eventually stop eating. Patients can often feel the need to support their body and posture with one or both of their hands if the chair they are in doesn’t provide them with enough support, leaving them feeling unstable and insecure. The support received from correct seating enables them to perform simple tasks again such as being able to interact freely with both arms and be able to reach for a cup of tea or a tissue – to having the confidence and security within the chair to begin self-feeding instead of being fed by a carer, which we are delighted to have seen in a number of cases!
For degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease, it’s important to find a way to allow your loved one to regain a level of independence and dignity. For pressure redistribution, rather than relying on a carer or family member to adjust the angle of the chair, we can provide powered movements which the user can manage independently on a remote. The very basis of the chairs are designed to promote independence and functionality for patients, providing enough support and stability to give the patients the confidence to be more independent.
- Comfort and Contentment
Overall the main quality we are seeking to provide the user of the chair with is comfort and contentment. Helping them feel safe and secure, maintain their independence whilst also supporting postural and functional needs, can lead to a huge improvement in a person’s mental well-being as well as a marked physical improvement.
Specialty Seating for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Patients
The Sorrento, Phoenix, Atlanta and Monaco in particular are designed with the aim of meeting the needs of those with Alzheimer's Disease. The Phoenix and Sorrento are helpful in the later stages of Alzheimer’s when muscular function can be reduced. Seating Matters Phoenix and Sorrento chairs are highly adjustable, providing support for the body and accessories can be included at a later date if they are not needed at the initial assessment. This allows the chair to meet changing needs over a long period of time.
The Atlanta is particularly helpful in patients who suffer involuntary movements and can be challenging to seat. People with these symptoms may have an increased risk of falling out of their chairs because they forget that they are not as strong as they once were. The seat depth, high arm rests and leg rests keep the individual safe and snug in the chair.
Please bear in mind, each person is different and so while I have given an overview of my observations to date when dealing with similar patients, you must use knowledge of the patient, environmental considerations and personal preferences before deciding on which Seating Matters chair to use.
A Seating Specialist can carry out a free seating assessment at a time and place that suits you to assess the patients needs and match with a suitable chair.
For more information on Alzheimers Disease please try the following helpful links:*Note: The purpose of this blog is to give an overview of the product with some tips to consider on its use. This is not intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice, diagnosis, prescription or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. For advice with your personal health or that of someone in your care, consult your doctor or appropriate medical professional.
** The information is not region specific, so you must consult your local and national guidelines before taking action with regards to specific patients.