Thursday, August 9, 2018

Learning From My Cat's Dementia

Caregivers can learn a lot from their aging pets as they move towards their end of days. 

This entry was started in late 2013, Mom and our cat were both approaching their "end of days". We saw obvious signs in our cat's behaviours and her obvious changes; with Mom, we saw changes and felt her time with us was growing less and less.

OBSERVATIONS:  Cat has lost a great deal of weight and has gone from being "choosy" regarding what she eats to also including where she eats what she chooses to eat.

For humans, one of the "signs" of "end of life" in the elderly is their "choosing" to eat less and less and then refusing food.

Various studies have concluded that medications can change the way we humans smell and taste; medications that affect the body and the brain. 

Perhaps we're not seeing the correlation between the brain that's being affected by disease and the medications elderly people are often given for a myriad of reasons -- including "mood" improvement, especially in Long Term Care Facilities.

Cat is not on any meds but notice she tries to smell more what she eats and may turn away even when given various choices: canned food, fresh food, it doesn't matter.

Our senses are important from birth onward. The newborn "roots" and uses the sense of smell to locate food and to recognize caregivers.

Watching our cat and Mom, I see these "basic instincts" becoming more important as the brain seems not to process everyday common activities as it once did.

Cat's ability to chew also seems to be affected and she's been surviving on the "gravy" we've found in some canned food and the "liquids" we produce from cooking fish or chicken along with a very small amount of the actual solid materials.

Taste for one type of food may produce eating and then again it might cause her to turn away. Is it the sense of smell or taste or both?

In Long Term Care facilities, Dental Hygiene is often non existent or at such a low level as to cause complications never experienced before by the individual while living with family members or on their own.

THRUSH -- take a look at this report by government resources

WONDERING.  Why facilities don't have more food choices they offer and keep track of what items seem to be more "accepted" by residents on an individual basis? 

Why aren't LTC's trying like I am for my cat and did for my children and my Mom when she lived with us, to watch closely their Nutrition and ensure they received the necessary amount of nourishment to promote health and well being?

Reality Check:  Staff that's hired from a service, constant turnover, two few staff for number of residents -- problems are rampant but it takes highly observant family members to eliminate this chronic problem.

INTERESTING COMMENT:  I was once told Mom lived as long as she did because she was a "determined person". Guess what we provided for almost forty years for her mental and physical well being including healthcare that intervened when necessary and didn't wait until the complications (like so many of her Urinary Track Infections at the facilities causing severe challenges) didn't have any positive effect?

And, it was our constant vigilance and action while she lived in the Long Term Care Facilities that added to her life despite the lack of facility oversight and care.

In the facility Mom was in for the last two years, the access to recording information concerning residents appeared to be limited to wall mounted units in the hallways and those appeared to be used by Aides to record what they did. 

The Aide, who moved from one to another to another, had to make/take the time to record after performing a service and she/he could often be seen making notes on more than one resident at a time. THAT'S DANGEROUS.

The Nurses (LPN's) used laptop computers at the "main desk" or at "medication stands located near the main desk" where they pulled up information on individual residents OR they wrote on pieces of paper that then had to be filed and, of course, couldn't really be accessed and referred to easily AND each person's hand writing or printing might be very difficult to interpret. 

ANOTHER OBSERVATION:  Cat eats in different areas and what she refuses in one, she may accept in another. Facilities, at least Mom's did, often move residents from a "main dining area" where they've eaten for a long time to a "special dining area" but there is often one person to feed three people at one time or two will sit waiting for as long as it takes to feed the one before "getting their turn". BY THAT TIME, MANY REFUSE, HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP OR ARE DISINTERESTED.  

Cat likes to be near me and will accept some foods when they're placed near my chair as I work on the computer or even "in bed" in a box she's chosen to lay in near the back door where the Sun warms her very lightweight body. In Mom's facility, residents "share" tables but there's no "moderator", no "promoter" sharing time and place with them who has been trained to lead conversation, share current affairs or involve residents in "the real world" and keep their minds active and involved.

Cat has always been small; she was the littlest in the litter we were told; but she was active and quick and very agile before her Dementia really took effect -- a lot like Mom's abilities to move, be active and accomplish tasks.

Cat reminds me, as Mom did, of a regression physically backwards in time to being a small kitten/child. Animals, however, are born being more capable of moving and fending for themselves while humans go through many stages of being totally dependent to developing skillsets and abilities.

Overheard a woman visiting her husband saying to the receptionist how THEY'RE going to have to give him something because he's just so unpredictable and she can't stand to visit him when he's one way one minute and another the next.

HOW SELF CENTERED WE BECOME, THOSE OF US WHO CAN WALK AWAY AND WHO CAN MEASURE "OUR" TIME AND OUR LIVES as needing not to be "disturbed" by another's needs and wants expressed in a way we do not feel is "acceptable" to us. 

I can only wonder what kind of relationship, what type of marriage these two had. Maybe she's "making up for" the poor ways she was treated; maybe she was always the one who did't listen, wouldn't listen.

LONG TERM CARE needs to focus on all three words, ephasising the CARE. Too few provide real compassion and concern. Too many walk away or simply find other things to do rather than watch, listen and provide caregiving.

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