Alzheimer’s Dementia and Anesthesia
When my Mom was hospitalized for tests due to shortness of breath and other symptoms of pneumonia, she was totally confused the entire time she was in the hospital.
She had been to this same hospital many times for tests and such, but had never needed an overnight stay. This time she was hospitalized for a week and I was shocked at how confused she eventually became by the time we took her home.
Mom thought she was still at my house–where she’d lived for more than a year. So she told everyone who who came to visit at the hospital that ‘it was a good thing my house was so large, because my friends had partied all night long making a terrible raucous and keeping her awake for long hours.’
During waking hours we were on the verge of tying her to the bed. She was determined to get up and cook food for all my friends and house guests who kept walking around hungry. She could hardly believe I was such a poor hostess to all these people coming in and out of her room.
Mom had not received any type of anesthesia, so I was puzzled by her much worsened state of confusion. I’d known other Alzheimer’s patients who’d had anesthesia administered and then appeared to regress afterward. Frankly, I always thought it was some side-effect of the medication on an already damaged brain. In fact, I still believe that to be the case in some instances. But, from what I’ve read–much research on this theory has not proven it to be true.
And, after Mom’s behavior (without anesthesia) I must admit, I’ve been double-guessing a few of my own theories on the subject. Nevertheless, my Mom’s behavior worsened substantially after that hospitalization, though she did return to her previous stage when we finally got home. And, of course, any memory of the hospital evaporated as soon as Mom was back in her own room.
Besides the accumulation of tangles and plaques, (clumps of protein called beta-amyloid, which begin accumulating in the front of the brain and gradually spread to other parts) other theories about Alzheimer’s damage to the brain include inflammation, mini strokes, free radicals and glucose deficit, and more. We aren’t even sure when Alzheimer’s actually starts in the brain. Right now, it is believed that it may start many years before we actually see symptoms.
So today, there’s no clear answer about what causes the severe confusion of a Hospital Stay or Anesthesia on the Alzheimer’s or Dementia Patient. But it does happen, as all of us who’ve had a loved one suffer through it can verify. I wonder, now, if it isn’t actually an accumulation of stimuli, too many different rooms, people, things, to shock the brain of a person who’s memory is already pressed to remember their own small world.
The only thing that appears to help is to keep the patient calm and the environment as quiet and unaffected as possible. No easy task, I know, in a hospital.
Some of our loved ones enjoy music, and that makes it easier to calm them. A few minutes of gentle music can often calm the angriest mood — There are many soft music CD’s that are perfect to calm their nerves. Plus, they may have their own favorite music that works just as well. Don’t forget the salving calm of Music!
If they are accustom to wearing a headset–all the better. They can shut out a noisy room and enjoy a few minutes of peace and calm–
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