Illnesses have some features that are diagnostic and widely known.
Alzheimer’s Disease, for instance, is the most common form of dementia. Memory loss is the hallmark symptom.
There are other symptoms, of course. One of the lesser known symptoms often creates misunderstandings and trouble.
Infants have a grasp reflex: put your finger on a little palm, and those little fingers grab it. It’s a spinal cord reflex that doesn’t involve the infant’s brain: automatic. In time , that little brain grows and takes greater control over movement, suppressing the reflex.
Interestingly, with Alzheimer’s the grasp reflex may return as a damaged brain loses the ability to mask it. Someone may grab on to your arm or a handrail and form a firm grip. It’s automatic: they may well be as surprised as you are, if they notice at all.
Sadly, others sometime mistake this reflex for a person intentionally grabbing them or a handrail, etc. They may mistake it for aggression or care resistance. Such misunderstandings often escalate into actual violence, as both parties defend themselves from perceived attack. I’ve seen it happen many times.
Awareness of this phenomenon can help care givers reduce the risk of upset and violence. A little gentleness and patience, and the grasp resolves on its own, just as it does with an infant. Knowledge, as they say, is power. The best way to prevent things getting worse is to avoid making it worse.
Do you have any tips for nurses out there? Let’s share.