Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

Guest article: Dealing with dementia: What caregivers need to know

By Jesse Waugh from Daughterly Care

Have you been given the rewarding yet challenging task of caring for a loved one with dementia?

Undoubtedly, caring for someone with the affliction can be very demanding both emotionally and physically.

An overall term to describe a dramatic decline in one’s mental ability, dementia can be severe enough to interfere with the patient’s day to day existence.

The following tips will help you care for a patient with dementia effectively, while helping them transition into another phase of their lives with less difficulty.

elderly_woman

Communication
In most cases, people with dementia will find communicating utterly demanding.

Chances are, they will find it difficult to verbalize, write and express their emotions in general.

In some instances, they have the tendency to also lose sight of conversation basics and might end up ignoring or interrupting you in the process.

Bridge the ‘communication gap’ by keeping in mind the following basics.

• Keep calm at all times and give them sufficient time to comprehend what you are trying to say and wait for them to respond to you.
• Make use of touch and other positive body language when communicating and make it a point to remain consistent in your approach.
• Always opt for simple and short sentences when trying to get your message across. Also, try not to argue and be condescending. Keep in mind that they still have emotions and feelings even if they might have difficulties understanding you.

Nutrition

Part and parcel of fitting elderly home care should involve carefully monitoring the patient’s drinking and eating habits.

There is a possibility for people with dementia to forget to eat and drink so keeping an eye on this key element should be considered vital.

Effectively manage their eating and other nutrition needs by taking the following pointers to heart.

• Ensure snacks and meals are offered on a regular basis. While not everyone has the same needs, 5-6 small meals a day is considered ideal.
• When possible, serve foods they are familiar with and patiently demonstrate chewing if the need calls for it.
• In most cases, patients tend to lose a lot of weight especially in the later stages of the disease. With this in mind, consider giving nutritional supplements. Consult a doctor or a dietitian so you will be given appropriate advice as to the supplements that might be helpful.

Aggression
While not true for all, there are instances when patients with dementia will exhibit some aggression tendencies.

Be on top of any possible outburst by practicing the following essentials.

• Inform friends, family and relevant health professionals if the patient displays any form of aggression.
• If fits happen repeatedly, try to observe so you can figure out what the triggers are. Once you identify what provokes the outbursts, it will be a lot easier for you to steer clear of those triggers.
• If the outbursts become frequent and unbearable, ask for professional advice so you will know how to manage it effectively.

While physically challenging and emotionally devastating, you can do much to help make dementia a bit more bearable for the patient. Equip yourself with all there is to know, seek the help and guidance of the right professionals, and you are on your way to managing dementia with ease.

Leave a comment

Filed under Awareness & Activism

Book review: ‘Slow Dancing with a Stranger’

You know you are a caregiver or an Alzheimer’s awareness advocate when books like this appear on your Christmas wish list.

I had read positive reviews of the book, “Slow Dancing with a Stranger” by Meryl Comer, a former television journalist.

Courtesy: MerylComer.com

Courtesy: MerylComer.com

In this raw and honest memoir, Comer attempts to illustrate the “unvarnished reality” of Alzheimer’s while describing her life as the primary caregiver for her husband, a former esteemed NIH scientist who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in his late 50’s. He is still alive, 20 years later. Comer’s mother, who she’s always had a difficult relationship with, also has dementia and is still alive at age 94. The three live together, and a small group of dedicated caregivers work daily shifts to help with the care.

Comer tries placing her loved ones in facilities, but it is important for people to understand that not all Alzheimer’s patients are suitable for facility care, and that in fact, can be essentially “thrown out” if they are deemed a risk to themselves, staff, or other residents. Yet home care brings its own set of challenges, and neither road is an easy one to navigate.

I also think Comer does a good job of demonstrating that some people with Alzheimer’s don’t respond to the more positive therapy methods that are popular nowadays, such as music therapy, exercise, etc. Comer tries everything imaginable to reduce her husband’s anger and anxiety, but nothing seems to work. Comer’s husband has a form of Alzheimer’s that causes violent, physical outbursts, and both Comer’s husband and her mother were extremely manipulative, with her mother calling the police to claim she had been abandoned by her daughter.

I found beauty and awe in Comer’s resilience to take care of her loved ones in spite of all of the setbacks they faced together. Comer has given up her career and essentially her life to take care of her husband and mother. It’s a sacrifice that not everyone could make. To say this is a depressing book would be an understatement, but I hope it will help raise awareness of the debilitating emotional, physical and financial impact of this disease.

100 percent of the proceeds of the book will go towards Alzheimer’s research.

Leave a comment

Filed under Awareness & Activism

The beautiful and ugly world of Alzheimer’s

I read a lot of personal essays written by those who have been impacted by Alzheimer’s, but this one really moved me emotionally. It was published on Huffington Post and titled, “I Never Expected My Mother to Be Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s When I was 26.” Not only does the essay give us a glimpse into how the younger generations are being touched by this disease, it is beautifully written.

mirror person

In the essay, Rebecca Emily Darling discusses some of the upsides of her mother’s Alzheimer’s, such as a greater appreciation of ordinary things, and a nicer demeanor. Yet even these “benefits” are tinged with sadness, because they only illuminate how much the disease has changed the personality of her flawed but beloved mother.

The essay by Darling sums up the good and the bad of this disease so eloquently. If you have a chance to read it, let me know what you think.

1 Comment

Filed under Awareness & Activism

A sweet and simple connection

I watched a video that has been making the rounds on Facebook lately, and I thought it illustrated how we can still reach those in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, we just have to be flexible in our approach.

Musician Joe Fraley’s mother has Alzheimer’s, and back in October, before she was moved to assisted living, Fraley recorded a video of him and his Mom sitting on the porch while he strummed a guitar and sang.

Clearly, the woman is confused and asks poignant questions like “Who are we?” Fraley’s approach is refreshing because he keeps things light and conversational, while still addressing her concerns and not being dismissive. The woman responds to the music, and you can see how it lights up her face, even if it is just temporarily.

Not only is it important for those with Alzheimer’s to still connect with their family members in small but meaningful ways like this, I believe it is equally important for the family caregivers. While the recorded moment is still tinged with sadness, Fraley was able to reach his mother through the cloud of dementia by their mutual love of music, and that is a memory to cherish.

2 Comments

Filed under Awareness & Activism

Dad, three years gone from this world

Today is rainy, chilly and dreary, just like three years ago when I received the dreaded phone call that my father had died.

Everything else is so much different.

One of my favorite photos.

One of my favorite photos.

Little did I know at the time that I had taken the first of many significant dips on the roller coaster of life. Mom, always the picture of health, was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer just seven months after my father’s death. I quit my job to take care of her for the next six months. It would be another year before I secured any regular work.

I discovered that freelancing is best approached when you have time to plan and build clients, not for a sudden source of steady income. I learned that being a really good employee doesn’t get you very far in this job market.

And perhaps most importantly, I immersed myself in the world of Alzheimer’s activism, and learned so much from the stories I read.

So I am definitely a different person than the one who answered that phone in the middle of the newsroom on December 20, 2011. I hope I’m a bit wiser, and a lot more compassionate.

Tonight I will light a candle, toast Dad’s spirit with a glass of Irish whiskey and remember his wonderful singing voice, realizing that one can smile and mourn at the same time.

6 Comments

Filed under Memories

Bittersweet holiday

As I’ve written before I’m sure, Thanksgiving was my dad’s favorite holiday. He loved turkey! My dad was not one to get too excited about food normally, so it was a big deal to watch him devour slice after slice of turkey.

While I can still recall those fond family memories, they are unfortunately overshadowed by that Thanksgiving three years ago. Dad was in the ICU, clinging to life. I was trying to figure out when I should fly out, because I was working the entire holiday weekend. The nurse said he could pass in two hours or two months, there was no telling. As soon as I arrived to work on Black Friday 2011, I received the call from a nurse, frantically asking me if they should pull the plug on my dad’s life support.

turkey

I’m now back working in the same newsroom I was that day when I received that terrible call. Every now and then I’ll glance to that corner of the room and remember the pacing I did that day three years ago, trying my best not to completely freak out from the stress. I’m once again working the holiday, but from home this time. Thankfully I won’t have to mark the anniversary of those painful memories at the office.

So Thanksgiving is bittersweet for me. I still enjoy the food and try to focus on the happy memories. Life, and death, does not pause for holidays.

I hope somehow, somewhere, Dad is enjoying a few big slices of turkey.

2 Comments

Filed under Memories

Fascinating study regarding cancer and Alzheimer’s

Because I had one parent who had Alzheimer’s and another parent who has battled cancer, I was intrigued by this study that explored the low rates of cancer in those with Alzheimer’s and vice versa.

maze

Researchers may have found a defect in a critical brain cell pathway that can lead to Alzheimer’s or cancer depending upon which way the imbalance of cell activity presents itself. This may help explain why Alzheimer’s patients have a lower risk of cancer and cancer patients are at less risk for Alzheimer’s.

Further studies will try to determine if activity can be boosted in the damaged cell pathways, which could potentially reduce the cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s patients.

I always thought my dad was destined for cancer because of his smoking habit, yet he remained cancer-free, while my mom, who doesn’t have typical cancer risk factors ended up with colon cancer. While I’ve read of people who have had both diseases at the same time, it does seem pretty rare. Instead, we hear more about the cruel irony of the dementia patient who is otherwise physically healthy.

After all of the deaths and misery both of these diseases have caused, it would be wonderful to find an effective treatment for both of them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Awareness & Activism