July 29th, 2010 at 2:12 am
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When Does a Person Need More Assistance?

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

It is not always obvious if a person would benefit from additional assistance when it comes to their medical appointments. Sometimes a person may be unable to drive and needs to rely on a ride from a friend or a transportation service. If there are hearing, speech, memory and/or vision problems, the concern becomes whether that person understands, remembers or is able to accurately explain the details that were given.

A co-worker’s mother had a hearing loss and eventually asked her daughter to go with her because she was not hearing very well any more. That was true, but about five years later the mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Apparently she was having trouble processing the information because of the hearing loss but it likely that the memory difficulties for complex or new information may have been contributing to her challenges.

A patient of mine lived alone, had minimal ability to read or write, and was recently diagnosed with dementia. After a hospitalization, she was discharged home on a modified diet after aspiration pneumonia. She was given printed lists of menu ideas and some swallowing strategies but never told anyone she could not read very well. Fortunately my patient had an aide several times a week. I was able to teach the aide and over a period of time my patient became independent with the strategies and menu preparation.

In another situation, a woman had friends who took turns driving her to the appointments, dropping her off and picking her up later. When I came for her speech therapy right after she got home from one of those appointments, it was very obvious that she was confused about the change in medications. I contacted her daughter so she could follow-up with the doctor but also strongly recommended that someone go with her mom to the appointments and get the details from the doctor to report back to the daughter. The other suggested option was to ask the doctor’s office to call the daughter with the information they had given to her mother. My patient was actually relieved that she no longer had to try and figure it out on her own but it was unlikely she would have spoken out and asked for help. The potential for a medication error was certainly there. Fortunately the daughter was able to either take her mom or she hired someone to be with mom for the appointment to get the information. One gentleman I was seeing for therapy had a similar problem and and I recommended he use a mini digital voice recorder. That allowed him to play the details his doctor gave him later on, listening several times and writing it down for future reference. Article with additional information: Take Charge of Your Medical Information: Communication is a Two-Way Street

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now” Alan Lakein

Posted in Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Support | 2 Comments »
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2 Comments to “When Does a Person Need More Assistance?”

  1. Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP


    Thanks for your feedback. I could not agree with you more. In home health care, everyday I see similar situations and the services we all can provide are more appropriate the more information we get.

    In those cases, I try to get the responsible party to start a journal with medical details for the current situation and then start going back from there until a history is being created on paper or the computer.

    Continued success in your work.

  2. Jeff

    I can’t tell you how many times we have a problem with getting “all” of the information from the people we work with. Most of our clients are seniors with some form of disability – not always long term, but more often just beginning to have difficulties. We try to make it a policy to meet with them AND either their caregiver or other family members so we can get the most accurate information. Sometimes people don’t think they are having difficulties. Other times they are too proud to discuss problems. We also understand that when real memory loss sets in, they truly don’t remember or understand the problems. Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or caregiver interview, it’s crucial to have other people there during the meeting that will give complete and accurate information about the situation at hand. It’s not always easy getting the best people involved to share their observations but it is so important.

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