Some of the physical effects to HIV may be better known, but loss of brain function can also affect people with HIV or AIDS, especially as they age. In fact, the virus can change the size of some brain structures and lead to forgetfulness, behavioral changes, headaches, and the loss of sensation in the extremities. And people with advanced infection may experience dementia.
These symptoms are difficult to manage or control, but the Schulman and Schachne Institute for Nursing and Rehabilitation at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., is working to make life for those with AIDS-related dementia a little more comfortable. The institute is a voluntary care facility dedicated to providing a homelike environment to its clients, many of whom have HIV or AIDS.
According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of AIDS-related dementia—sometimes called AIDS dementia complex or HIV-associated dementia—include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), behavioral changes, and a gradual decline in cognitive function, including trouble with concentration, memory, and attention. Motor skills begin to deteriorate, with loss of dexterity and coordination. This disorder can affect about half of those who advance to AIDS.
Most people who become HIV-positive will still live a long life, but many will eventually find themselves in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. The Schulman and Schachne Institute is one of many nursing facilities dedicated to providing this sort of care to people with HIV across New York City. This facility in particular has a long history of expertise in dementia care, using multiple strategies—therapeutic activities and staff interventions, for example—to help patients.
The institute’s residents may be admitted after enduring the acute phase of their illness; those needing long-term geriatric care to deal with dementia, or hospice care, are also welcome. Three 40-bed facilities are available, and each person admitted is assigned their own staff of medical professionals to help them along.