Alzheimer's Disease has become a concern that is now more widely studied than it used to be. Typically seen in the elderly population, Alzheimer's disease is characterized by several factors, including forgetfulness and agitation (National, 2008). Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, and it gets progressively worse as the patient continues to age (National, 2008). Despite the lack of a cure, however, there are some treatments that are just coming to light where Alzheimer's disease is concerned (Mace & Rabins, 2006). In other words, doctors and researchers are working on ways to be able to slow the progression of the disease and to ease the symptoms of the disease, and there are some medications that do show some promise at this point (Medina, 1999).
This is, naturally, very encouraging, but these medications also have some side effects, and many of them do not work well unless they are used in the very early stages, almost as a preventative measure rather than a type of maintenance or 'cure' (Dash & Villemarette-Pittman, 2005). Some people with certain other conditions also cannot take these medications because they are not able to withstand the side effects or because the medical condition that they have will not allow for the Alzheimer's disease medication to be mixed with the other medications that they already take (Dash & Villemarette-Pittman, 2005). Because of these concerns and others, alternative therapies are being discussed and studied as ways to provide help and relief for these individuals and their families without the medications and harmful side effects that they might otherwise endure (Alzheimer's, 2008).
These alternative therapies are worthy of discussion and consideration as ways of helping not only these people, but their families as well. It is for this reason that many are beginning to study this issue, in an effort to determine whether there is some truth to the idea that these therapies work and whether there are still more alternative therapies that should be considered and possibly used in the future.
Addressing the problem is very important here, as it must be understood what is being studied and examined. The main problem is that alternative therapies for Alzheimer's are very new to the medical field and therefore they are still largely suspect when it comes to whether they are safe and whether they are effective. Naturally, both of these things are important considerations, because the safety of a treatment should be one of the most important issues when it comes to patient care. If the treatment is not safe, essentially it does not matter how effective it actually is, since there is too much danger in it.
Likewise, the effectiveness of the treatment must also be considered, because no treatment, regardless of how safe it actually is, will be worthwhile if it does not work for the patient. This is part of the reason that there are different medications available that all treat the same thing, since not all patients respond in the same way to the same medication. The same is true of alternative therapies for Alzheimer's disease and the way that people with Alzheimer's are treated for pain and other issues that elderly people often develop in conjunction with the disease. Both safety and effectiveness have to be very strongly considered to find the right treatment for the patient in question, instead of treating everyone with Alzheimer's disease in the same way.
The purpose of this writing is to discuss therapies for Alzheimer's disease patients and determine whether they are valid and worthwhile, as well as safe, when it comes to Alzheimer's disease treatment. Also important is whether these treatments are affected by medications that these individuals might be taking. In other words, are the treatments better on their own, or are they better in conjunction with more traditional therapies that are more generally used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease? Without knowing whether these therapies actually work and whether they are safe, it is difficult to determine whether they should be studied more and whether they should be used. Studies such as this one can work toward finding answers to these things and helping to determine whether alternative therapies and other methods of handling pain and mental confusion will actually be used for Alzheimer's disease patients as a more standard treatment.
Reviewing the literature is one of the most important areas of any work, as learning what has been done in the past can help paint a more accurate picture of the present and the future. One article by Tsai & Chang (2004) looked at the pain that elders with Alzheimer's disease often feel and the different ways that they use to express this pain. Also examined are the different methods that are used in order to determine whether an elder that is suffering from Alzheimer's disease is in pain and if treatment for that pain is necessary. The authors of the article indicate that determining whether an elder with Alzheimer's disease is actually experiencing pain is challenging, especially in late-stage Alzheimer's disease where the patient may have difficulty communicating (Tsai & Chang, 2004). This is of particular concern because many of these patients are in pain but their pain is not treated. Studies that were researched by the authors of this article indicate that pain in elders with Alzheimer's disease is very often overlooked (Tsai & Chang, 2004).
There are three ways, according to Tsai & Chang (2004) that pain assessments can be made in elderly people with Alzheimer's disease. For those that are in the early stages of the disease and still able to communicate, simply asking about pain and the rating of how severe the pain is often will tell the nurse or doctor enough to decide on what treatment should be used. For those that cannot communicate as easily, a proxy is often used. This is where a healthcare professional must attempt to determine whether the patient is in pain based on factors that generally do not include verbal, self-reporting responses. This can be done with both patients who can communicate verbally and those who cannot. The third and final way that is used to determine pain in elderly patients with Alzheimer's disease is through observation by a healthcare professional. This is done with patients that cannot communicate verbally. Unfortunately, the amount and frequency of pain in these individuals is often underestimated by healthcare professionals (Tsai & Chang, 2004).
Conclusions from the article indicate that more must be done in the field of research when it comes to assessing the pain for these patients, and that new and better methods of reporting and determination for pain should be looked at, since the rate of underestimation of pain in these patients is deemed to be rather high. Patients should always be asked about their pain, and those that are not able to communicate well or at all should also be analyzed based on the proxy and/or observation method. The instruments that are used to make these pain determinations should also be addressed, as many nurses reported that they often have trouble using the instruments that are currently available (Tsai & Chang, 2004).
The information in the article and others like it is very applicable to clinical practice, as many nurses do not rate pain as highly as the nursing home residents that actually experience the pain. This would indicate that, in a clinical setting, more knowledge is needed about instruments that measure pain and more observation by nurses is needed in order to determine what problems these elders might be experiencing. Since pain can cause many different behaviors in elders that are not able to express their pain verbally, there are various things that should be looked for such as restlessness, rubbing, shifting position, difficulty moving, and aggressive verbal behavior, among others (Tsai & Chang, 2004).
It is clear from this article and other similar information that not enough is being done to assess and treat pain in elders that have Alzheimer's disease, but it is often difficult for nurses and other staff members that often have large patient loads and are short on time. Despite this, however, the pain of these elders is real and should be treated. More nurses in the profession, especially those who are willing to work in and enjoy working in nursing homes, would help to ease some of the patient load and make the experiences of the elders in their care better and more pain-free. This does not mean that every little twinge of pain should be dealt with by providing medication, or that elders with Alzheimer's disease should be over-medicated so that they are not disruptive. However, given the information in many studies that pain in the elderly population with Alzheimer's disease is greatly underreported by survey instruments, it is clear that there are many implications for clinical practice and that the issue should be examined more closely.
The article and other information like it contributes to a body of nursing knowledge that…