Dementia patients’ oral hygiene benefits from researched techniques


Helping dementia patients with oral hygiene. That’s right now. inMotion. ‘Oral hygiene is important because the state
of the mouth dictates the state of the body. There is research pointing to cardiovascular
disease in people with really bad oral hygiene and
then periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is caused by a lack of oral hygiene. Over
time little bits of food debris get trapped along
your gum line, bacteria grow, bacteria dissolving enamel on your teeth.’ Keeping up with your oral hygiene has benefits
above and beyond just fighting bad breath. It’s
a quality of life issue. More and more people are advancing into their elder years with
their own teeth. Due enlarge to a population that adheres
to good dental practices. Brushing and flossing after every meal and regular dental visits
become more and more important as teeth get older. But
dementia patients can provide a unique hurdle in achieving this goal. ‘They are unable to do their own mouth care.
They need a lot of support. We as caregivers try
to help them and instead we are perceived as threatening them.’ Dr. Rita Jablonski an assistant professor
in the Penn State School of Nursing has worked for years
in geriatric care and understands why something so positive can be seen in a negative light
by a patient with dementia. ‘Deep inside the brain is a section that is
known as the amygdala. And the amygdala holds onto
all your memories of fear. So overtime, we develop associations with maybe bees, or snakes
or heights that tell us those things are things
to be feared. But as we mature other parts of the
brain communicate with the amygdala. So you will have different parts of the brain that
will put the brakes on the amygdala. What happens with
people as they age, those parts of the brain don’t
communicate anymore. The pathways are cluttered, if you will, with the debris of dementia.
Bottom line is you have a person with dementia who
sees threat in everything.’ So a nurse or caregiver trying to provide
dental care, many times are perceived as a foe and not a
friend. Dr. Jablonski has developed a series of techniques to get around this impasse. If you really want to send a person with dementia
flying over the edge the main way to set someone off is to engage in a type of speech pattern
known as elder-speak. (Said sweetly as if talking to a child.) ‘Hi.
Are we ready for our bath? How are WE today? ‘Um’.that is such a affront to a person’s
dignity.’ ‘The older adult with dementia will probably
forget the fact that they were married. They may
forget the names of their children. They will never forget that they are an adult. That
they are a grown man or a grown woman. So for someone
to interact with an older adult using elder-speak you are assaulting their personhood.
Other strategies involve promoting independence.’ ‘A lot of caregivers. . . You have a person
with dementia. You try to get them to brush their
teeth and maybe they start brushing their hair, looking around, or forgetting what they
are doing. The temptation is to say ‘Here, give me that.
Let me brush your teeth. I can do that in two
seconds.’ Well, the problem is that when you do for someone with dementia you again are
almost attacking them.’ ‘So avoiding elder-speak and promoting independence
are two very strong ways to reduce or prevent care-resistant behavior.’ ‘Ultimately, I want to take my techniques
and move them over into the home. Because if I can
teach you or someone who is caring for an older adult or spouse how to do these behaviors
it is possible that I can improve the quality of
life of the caregiver as well as the person with
dementia and the person can stay home longer.’ For inMotion, I’m Curt Parker.