Is Alzheimer’s Affecting Your Workplace?

Andrea Kay writes a wonderful column for USA Today, and recently addressed how Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are affecting the workplace in, “At Work: Dementia affects companies.”

Few employers understand the impact that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia has on the workplace, as employees struggle with a parent, spouse or friend who is showing signs of dementia. Caregiving thereafter forces them to miss time at work, leave early, forgo promotions and struggle with their own health needs as caregivers. Over 30% of caregivers for persons with dementia are 45-60 years old and often employees who are in leadership and management positions. Other employees are age 30-45 – or 30% – who are often the “rising stars” in a company. When caregiving duties require these important employees to be away from their position or job tasks to attend to a relative with dementia – sometimes for weeks – not only do they suffer but so, too, does the business or organization.

Few professionals understand the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and the ripple effects felt by their families and caregivers who are your employees – but we do. The Gilster Group can provide education, support, and consultation to your employees, helping them cope and coordinate care, and allowing them to focus on their responsibilities to your company.

Delirium and Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease in the Hospital

Information continues to surface about the effects of hospitalization on people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, one of which is delirium. Because delirium is associated with further cognitive loss and overall decline in health, we must continue to identify ways in which we can prevent delirium and focus on how health care professionals can change this dangerous and costly trend.

Improvements in the ability to identify those with delirium will present opportunities to improve treatments and alleviate symptoms. Interventions do exist, and are not limited to medication administration or costly alternatives. The Gilster Group specializes in guiding hospital personnel to develop interventions related to dementia, including delirium, and improving the quality of care of individuals with cognitive impairment with cost-effective approaches.

Older Adults Feeling SAD? Talk to a Doctor

We’ve all been touched by a bit of the winter blues at one time or another.  Yet some suffer more than others and are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Susan’s latest monthly column for Gannett Newspapers, “Feeling SAD? Talk to a Doctor,” discusses SAD and the effects on older adults.

Although SAD is thought to affect mostly females younger than age 55, it can occur later in life, too. Due to cold temperatures and chances for snow and ice, older adults are more likely to stay indoors. And that may increase the incidence of SAD. Older adults are more at risk for social isolation during the winter months, as family and friends stay home more often as well.

Read the article to learn more about SAD and what can be done to prevent or treat this seasonal form of depression.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Increasing Numbers and Costs for the Future, and How We Can Help

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is once again in the news this week, with a new study in the journal Neurology estimating that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is anticipated to reach 13.8 million by 2050. In turn, the costs in caring for the population will skyrocket.

A great deal of focus is now directed at the increasing costs associated with the disease, as well as the research and development of pharmaceutical treatments and potential cures. While it is important to invest in future research for new treatments and cures for dementia, what about those suffering now?

Through the years, I have encountered many families who shared heartbreaking stories of painful experiences with a loved one with dementia in health care settings. After successfully providing person-centered, compassionate care for decades, I know it doesn’t have to be this way. My desire is to change that experience by coaching and consulting with health care professionals to deliver safe, dignified and compassionate care for the patient and to provide the information and support desperately needed by their families.

As someone with over 25 years of daily “hands-on” experience, I know it is possible create a unique, dementia-specific program to deliver true, specialized care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. The Gilster Group is a multidisciplinary collaboration of experts in memory loss and dementia which provides education, training and consulting to health care providers. We recognize the urgent need to enhance care for individuals with dementia and their families and reduce medical costs. And while waiting for a treatment or cure, we need to focus on those who need help – now .

Alzheimer’s and Memory Care in Assisted Living

As the baby boomer population increases, so too will the number of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The current need for quality and true specialized memory care in assisted living is great and is sure to intensify in the future.

While many facilities claim to provide special dementia care, that is often not the case. Unfortunately, a number of assisted living providers see this growing demographic as an opportunity to increase market share and revenue by providing a “special” unit at a much higher cost to their residents. Senior Housing News addressed this issue in a recent article by Alyssa Gerace.

Providing a dementia program takes great thought and planning, and a true dedication to caring for the unique needs of this population.

Unintended Consequences of Hospitalizations for People with Alzheimer’s & Dementia

A recent news story highlighted what is now referred to as post-hospital syndrome. This is described as a readmission to a hospital within 30 days for a medical reason unrelated to the original admission – though thought to be a result of the initial hospitalization itself.

The story identifies typical stressors for patients in the hospital – for anyone – including confused days and nights, altered concept of time, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and dietary intake, and risk of infections.

Now, consider the additional difficulties those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will experience when hospitalized. Restraints are often used due to disorientation and confusing, leading to risk of falls and loss of mobility and independent ambulation. Poor dietary intake occurs, as many do not understand what to do with food or are unable to eat independently. A strange environment and unfamiliar people increases anxiety and stress, causing increased confusion and often unwanted behaviors. An inability to understand or remember what is said, follow directions, and communicate needs makes the experience even more difficult.

It is not uncommon for this population to suffer serious adverse consequences of a hospital stay long after discharge. However, much can be done to improve hospitalization and prevent another hospitalization.

Hospitalization, Alzheimer’s and Dementia – Are We Capturing the Numbers?

A recent article entitled, “Do 2 in 5 Hospital Patients Suffer from Dementia?”debates some statistics from the United Kingdom related to hospitalized patients with dementia. The article loosely concluded that anywhere from 25% to 60% of patients may have a diagnosis of some type of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Wherever the actual number falls – we are looking at large numbers.

But perhaps most important – and just as we find in the United States – patients are hospitalized for reasons not related to dementia, and thus the dementia diagnosis is often not listed at all. And sadly, when the dementia diagnosis is listed as a diagnosis, it is well down on the list below other, more acute or long-term “medical” conditions.

Related to dementia and Alzheimer’s diagnoses, our current systems of medical records in the hospital appear to be lacking. Health care must improve methods of collecting this information in order to better track those with dementia before, during and following hospitalization.

Maintaining accurate data in order to analyze these statistics will better position our health care system to shine a spotlight on the imminent increase of this population and how we can better provide care for those affected by memory loss and other dementias.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Law Enforcement: Training is Needed to Maintain Safety and Dignity

With the increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, stories related to people with dementia are gaining notice in the media. Unfortunately, the stories are too often sad and tragic.
Indiana lawmakers recently passed a bill mandating training for law enforcement officers.

While this is a positive step, the bill was the result of a June, 2012 incident where an officer used a Taser 5 times on an elderly gentlemen with advanced dementia who resided in a long-term care facility. The gentleman was combative and uncooperative, refusing to go to the hospital.

Those with memory loss can present unique challenges for those in law enforcement, emergency medical services and other first responders. While training on mental health issues and other diagnosis has improved for those who work in public safety, we must continue to increase awareness and understanding of Alzheimer’s disease to ensure safety, while at the same time maintaining dignity.

Opportunities exist for training on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Contact your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, or visit for the International Association of Chiefs of Policy for information on their free Alzheimer’s Initiatives Training Center.

Approach in Alzheimer’s Can Make All the Difference

How you approach a person who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will make all the difference.

Bob DeMarco of the Alzheimer’s’ Reading Room recently posted a blog on how he believed that greeting his mother with a smile often had a positive influence on how their day would go together.

With over 25 years of daily experience working with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, I know this to be absolutely true. This is especially important for health care professionals who work with those with dementia to understand. People with Alzheimer’s and dementia are very perceptive and will react to your demeanor. Regardless of what you say, if you are upset and anxious people with dementia will often react in the same fashion – in words or behavior. Yet, if you are positive and calm, those with dementia will be more relaxed and calm as well. It’s a technique worth taking seriously.

Fearful of Alzheimer’s Disease or Another Diagnosis?

Susan Gilster is a firm believer that every day is a gift. She has witnessed many families who put off trips, or delayed legal and financial planning, or even failed to address family conflicts and waited until it was too late.

Many people state that they would want to know in advance if they were to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another serious diagnosis, admitting they might quit work, take a trip around the world, or move to their favorite vacation spot. But why wait?

Susan’s latest monthly column for Gannett Newspapers, “What are you waiting for? Act on a dream,” addresses these topics and others with the theme of starting the New Year by taking control of your destiny. Facing these issues, accomplishing tasks and doing something special for yourself is good for the mind, body and spirit.