Nov 11, 2015

The Alzheimer’s Questionnaire - An Invaluable Tool

I speak at community groups often to help advance Alzheimer’s awareness and share the true story of one woman’s incredible journey through dementia.

In the handout packet I give to attendees, there are five informational sheets.

By Elaine Pereira
Alzheimer's Reading Room

The first is a essentially a cover page reinforcing that I donate from each copy sold of I Will Never Forget to help support Alzheimer’s research.

A Daughter's Story of Her Mother's Arduous and Humorous Journey through Dementia

Next is a two-page sheet on dementia vs. Alzheimer’s summarizing the multiple causes of dementia, many of which are treatable if detected early enough, as well as Alzheimer’s.

 I emphasize that Alzheimer’s is a “real, progressive, neurological disease” and not a normal part of aging.

The next two detail how understanding, processing and using language in meaningful ways continues to deteriorate as dementia/Alzheimer’s advances.

Language is a highly sophisticated skill requiring the complex integration of hearing what is spoken, encoding the meaning, formulating an appropriate response and verbalizing it all in nanoseconds. My article, When Words Fail: Five Alternative Approaches to Talk to Someone with Alzheimer’s posted on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room in October, 2013.

Along with communication through the senses, there is a parallel article Interpreting the Words of Someone with Alzheimer’s - Don’t Take Them Quite so Literally, a true story shared at a community event a few years ago. It’s my favorite because it’s so real.

The last one, also from the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, is invaluable: The Alzheimer’s Questionnaire.

Time and time again, this handout has been instrumental in helping individuals break through the walls of denial and embrace the reality of their loved ones with compromising dementia.

Tears of Acceptance

A few months ago I was speaking to a group of family members and caregivers. One woman in particular intrigued me. I noticed over the course of the evening that she was engrossed in reading something and making notations in the margins. Occasionally a tear or two would stream down her cheek, gracing her face before dripping onto her paper.

After the presentation this woman approached me and admitted that she had been taken aback by the succinctness of the Alzheimer’s Questionnaire.

“I skimmed through it the first time focusing on the questions highlighted in yellow.* I was so stunned by how many applied to my mom that I went back through it carefully a second time and then a third. I answered ‘yes’ to virtually every revealing question giving Mom a score of 21!

“I’ve failed her!” As the tears began to flow again, I hugged her.

I had so been there. Cloaked in denial and ignorance, I too had missed all the clues. If I had had access to a user-friendly tool like the Alzheimer’s Questionnaire, maybe I would have recognized and accepted Mom’s decline and need for increased supervision sooner, much sooner.

“You haven’t failed her.” I said reassuring to the woman - Sherrie. “Like me, it just took you a little longer to get on board with the reality of your mother’s decline. But coming tonight was a huge first step and now you’re moving forward in her behalf.”

Key Questions that Are Eye Opening

The Alzheimer’s Questionnaire asks 21 questions to which you answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ with regards to the behavior of your loved one.

Each ‘yes’ answer gets 1 point except for 7 items that are weighted assigned with 2 points for a ‘yes’ reply. (*The 2-point questions are highlighted in yellow.) They are considered the most significant, although I found certain other questions extremely revealing also.
6. Do they suspect others of hiding or stealing items when they cannot find them?
Y = 1 N = 0 
9. Do they become more confused when not at home or when traveling?
Y = 1 N = 0 
12. Does your loved one have trouble remembering to take medicines or keeping track of medications taken? Y = 1 N = 0 
14. Are they having trouble using appliances, such as the stove, phone, remote control, microwave? Y = 1 N = 0

As Sherrie and I reviewed her responses, she admitted being suspicious that her mother was inconsistent with taking her prescriptions. Sherrie had taken over that responsibility a year earlier. And I agree; medication mistakes can be life threatening.

I have no doubt that Sherrie put the wheels in motion immediately to relocate her mother into a secure setting with more services all because of The Alzheimer’s Questionnaire! I had done exactly the same thing once my long overdue epiphany brought me the clarity I needed too.

Read more in the irresistible true story I Will Never Forget. The author donates from each book sold to help support Alzheimer’s research. “Help Me Help Others. Buy a Book!”

If you want to learn more about how to understand, cope and communicate with a person living with Alzheimer's or a related dementia, please take the time to review these custom searches of our articles, and read them.

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