On the Carpet:

Random Nursing Tip – Dementia


Via alfalfa studio - click to see more of their work!

Via alfalfa studio – click to see more of their work!

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.

About Big Red Carpet Nurse (1750 Articles)
Along with other stuff I enjoy that pays the bills (a plus!), I'm a budding nurse comic. I plan, like fake Opthomologist Rand Paul, to create my own professional organization solely so it will grant me a Doctorate. In my case, the org will be something like the AANC (American Association of Nurse Comics), and it will (trust me on this point) agree to make me the first ever DNC: Doctor of Nurse Comedy. I'll keep you posted!

8 Comments on Random Nursing Tip – Dementia

  1. As a newbie to home hospice care, a lot of my patients have dementia. I find this very helpful to know, as it was never taught to me but is a behavior I have seen in patients and have never understood–until now. Knowing this helps take away some of the fear I have when interacting with my patients.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is very interesting about the grasp reflex. Kind of almost like the rule that infants do not know that things exist, even when they can’t see them (I had to Google it – Object Permanence). I think I may already be experiencing this – but does this too return with Alzheimers?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grasp reflex doesn’t have anything to do with your mental experience. It’s a reflex entirely controlled within the spinal cord, like the one when the doc taps your knee. Grasp reflex differs in that the normal adult brain subconsciously suppresses it.
      I don’t know of any change in object permanence. People with memory loss typically remember things for a few minutes or so, the duration of working (temporary) memory, then lose them due to inability to transfer them to permanent storage.
      It may be worth getting an assessment by a specialist if possible if you have any concerns.
      Many people who suspect dementia don’t have it; the most common example is active depression, in which poor concentration can mimic poor memory. In any case, progression in most dementia cases is very slow.

      Liked by 1 person

I love your comments! Please, take a moment & share.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: