Much of what I’ve learned about Alzheimer’s, and how to objectivify my observations, comes from Claudia Allen’s Cognitive Disabilities Theory. The Allen Scale is the only handy dementia-rating scale that is based on function- rather than language-based answers to intellectual questions.
Claudia Allen began collecting data for her scale by working with people with schizophrenia back in the 1960s. Through task analysis of common, everyday functional activities, she was able to determine different levels of function that she broke down into “components” of the task. This expanded the ability to identify someone’s functional level because it allowed for successful completion of part of the entire task. Rather than a quick “unable to get dressed”, her scoring method allowed for “able to push arm through sleeve”. Instead of “bedbound”, she identified if someone could move against gravity.
The Allen Tool also shapes the way you approach teaching someone with Alzheimer’s. Knowing where the best usable visual attention field is, or how much language comprehension to expect, or why people wander and demonstrate repetitive behaviors- are valuable pieces of information for successful instruction of new skills and successful coping for the stressed out caregiver. The Allen Tool applies theory and research to skills that are far more relevant than the Mini Mental Exam that asks someone orientation questions like date and place.
The Global Deterioration Scale is a nice complement to the Allen. But we’ll save that post for another day. 🙂