Tag Archives: dementia

Let’s talk about guns and dementia

Here’s an important topic for family members to discuss: gun ownership and seniors, especially those who have been diagnosed with dementia. While there is quite a bit of awareness of the need to take the car keys away from those with dementia when their driving skills become impaired, there is little discussion about another deadly weapon found in many households. As part of the “caring for our aging parents” #Blog4Care blog carnival, please spread awareness about this topic so that families can have discussions about the proper precautions needed in their homes. Perhaps we can help prevent injuries and save lives.

If you’ve been following the news in America recently, there has been a slew of tragic shootings that have once again ignited the gun debate. The issues surrounding gun ownership and gun violence are being passionately debated right now. But one angle of this issue I never thought about before involves seniors and guns.

gun

An intriguing post on Alzheimer’s and Dementia Weekly made the point that more seniors own guns than any other age group. With the increased risk of dementia as one ages, this could create a dangerous situation. The article quotes Dr. Ellen Pinholt, who wrote in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that as family members, we should think about seniors and guns the same we do about seniors and driving. While there is no maximum age limit for owning a gun or driving, mental health status should be taken into consideration for both situations.

Dr. Pinholt recommends asking “the 5 L’s” when it comes to gun ownership and seniors. The questions include if the gun is locked, if it is loaded, if there are children present where the gun is located, whether the senior is depressed, and whether the senior has been diagnosed with dementia.

Sounds like simple and sane advice for an issue that is so complex and controversial. Still, I think it is just as important to consider the issue of having a gun in the house as it is allowing a person to drive once they’ve been diagnosed with dementia. It is yet another question to add to the all-important discussion with your elderly parents and the rest of your family.

While stereotypically, these random mass shootings tend to be perpetuated by young men, anyone who has a condition that impairs the brain and impacts judgement and emotions should probably have their access to a gun restricted, to protect themselves and others. I’m not a fan of legislative restrictions on personal liberties, but when someone’s safety and society’s safety is at risk, smart and limited restrictions may be appropriate.

While there is not a good substitute to driving a car, seniors with dementia may be able to handle a replica gun that either shoots a safe-type pellet or even better, a replica gun without ammunition. Of course, immediate supervision would be necessary. As caregivers, we should try to allow our loved ones with dementia to enjoy their hobbies as long as possible, if safety measures can be taken.

What do you think about the issue of gun ownership and seniors, especially those with dementia? Should guns be immediately removed from the household upon a diagnosis of dementia or are there alternative and less drastic solutions to consider?

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How should we deal with the unfiltered versions of our loved ones?

I wrote previously about the rumors that the least favorite man in professional sports, Clippers owner Donald Sterling, had Alzheimer’s. It appears that those rumors have been confirmed. USA Today reports that Sterling exhibited symptoms consistent with Alzheimer’s disease after undergoing an extensive neurological examination.

man speaking outline

On the one hand, this development places Alzheimer’s disease in the national spotlight, where it belongs. Unfortunately, because the disease is now associated with a man that so many find morally reprehensible, there is bound to be some backlash.

As I followed the news on Twitter, I found many people who found the Alzheimer’s diagnosis all too convenient, a way to look for sympathy from a public that was left aghast by his vehemently racist remarks that were secretly recorded by his much younger girlfriend. Others simply equated Alzheimer’s with crazy, saying “duh” of course Sterling is a crazy old man.

I hope in the days and weeks to come, as this dirty sports saga plays out in the American media, we can have an honest conversation about Alzheimer’s and behavior. This case raises many interesting questions for me. First of all, I think many of have experienced how those with Alzheimer’s lose their conversational filters, saying whatever comes to mind, whether it is offensive or just strange. Some begin to use profanity when they never did before. Generally I think those of us in the Alzheimer’s and dementia communities understand that this is the disease talking, and those afflicted should not be held responsible for their harsh words. For physically abusive actions, we can try behavior modification techniques and medications.

But the Sterling case is a bit different. There are numerous reports that Sterling had been a virulent racist his entire life, despite winning awards from the NAACP. Has the disease just erased his filter? Should the Sterling family be forced to sell the team for what a mentally ill man said, when he was allowed to be an NBA owner all of this time, even with his racist views?

I’m not raising these questions to defend Sterling; certainly he is a very wealthy man who can afford the best of lawyers and doctors to serve his best interest. But it is interesting to debate how much we should hold those with Alzheimer’s and dementia accountable for their words and actions.

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Want a free copy of a new Alzheimer’s book?

It has been just over a month since “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias” was released. So far, the demand has been overwhelming, the reviews extremely positive, and a second printing has been ordered!

Chicken Soup For the Soul: Living With Alzheimer's and Other Dementias

Since I was fortunate enough to be selected as a contributor, I have a few extra copies available. Starting today at noon ET, through Friday noon ET, you can enter a raffle for a chance to receive a complimentary copy of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias.”

Note: You must click on the Rafflecopter link below to be registered for the contest. Rafflecopter is a popular, safe contest platform. You can login through Facebook or with an email address. Follow the prompts on the form to enter the raffle.

Enter the book giveaway

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What about dementia in the workplace?

This week, there has been much talk about the Donald Sterling interview on CNN. The Clippers owner continues to make outrageous statements and accusations. It is easy to dismiss him as a crazy, racist old man who has not embraced modern civilization.

office blurry

But then his wife, in another interview, stated that she thinks Sterling has dementia. Now, the wife is desperately trying to retain her stake in the team, so she may just be doing damage control and trying to drum up sympathy. Still, it raised an interesting question for me.

What do we do about dementia in the workplace?

I wrote an article asking the same question on LinkedIn. I am curious to know what laws or regulations exist in the area you live in, or if the company you work for addresses the topic of dementia in any way. Dementia isn’t a new disease, obviously, but my guess is that in past generations, older people who started having difficulties on the job were just encouraged to retire sooner. Most probably did. But in today’s economy, retirement isn’t an option for many older people, or at best, they delay their retirement by several years. There is also the growing number of early-onset Alzheimer’s cases to contend with, so those in their career prime, in their late 30’s and 40s, could also have to tackle this issue.

I’d also like to know what policies you think should be put in place to deal with this sensitive issue. I’m trying to gather perspective from both sides, from the more business-focused people on LinkedIn, to the dementia awareness advocates that I follow here on WordPress.

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“Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias” goes on sale today

Today is the big day! As I wrote previously, I am so honored to have a story about my father included in the latest “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book. This special edition is dedicated to those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and their families. The collection includes stories of love, compassion, inspiration and yes, even humor. The best part is that the book is a collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association, and all royalties will go to the Alzheimer’s Association to help spread awareness about this terrible disease. The book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias” goes on sale today, at all major book retailers and online outlets.

CSS Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

As many of you reading this find yourself the family caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s, I know you will appreciate the book. It would make a thoughtful gift for anyone coping with Alzheimer’s in their family. If you cannot afford to buy the book, request it at your local library. You will laugh, you will cry and you will gain a greater appreciation of the strength of family caregivers.

If you are curious, my story is titled, “French Toast,” and appears in “The Lighter Side” section. Some of my favorite stories were the funny ones, surprisingly. I loved the one about the mother-in-law who hated cats but had a surprising reaction to a feline when she is in the mid-stage of Alzheimer’s. I also loved the story about the mother with Alzheimer’s who wakes up her daughter in the middle of the night to tell her there is a bird in the house. You’ll have to read the book to find out the wild ending of that story!

I know that wherever Dad’s spirit is now, he would be proud of me for being a part of this project.

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A memory on a postcard

Today I want to highlight a nonprofit organization that I just stumbled upon. They’ve been around since 2009, so many of you may be familiar with them, but I wasn’t. The group is called The Spaces Between Your Fingers Project and the group writes memory snapshots for people with Alzheimer’s that are recorded on postcards and sent to families. The service is free, and a copy of the memory postcard is kept in the Free Library of Philadelphia for archiving purposes. The organization has collaborated with the Alzheimer’s Association in the past. The group also has set up an online tool that allows anyone to record a memory postcard, whether they have dementia or not.

postcard

I love this concept, it is so unique and is a great way to encourage people to record family memories. If you are wondering what “the space between your fingers” means, there is a lovely storybook on their site that takes you through the very touching tale inspired by the founder’s grandfather. You may look at Alzheimer’s in a whole new light.

I plan on giving the service a try soon and will share what I create.

What is the first memory from your life that you would want to preserve?

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Today would have been Dad’s 82nd birthday

Today would have been my father’s 82nd birthday. He is so missed each and every day, but I am thankful that Alzheimer’s didn’t keep him trapped in a diseased world for any longer than it did.

But today is a reminder of why I have become an Alzheimer’s awareness advocate. I have become a more compassionate, aware person thanks to my father. To honor my father, and to help those who are going through the same thing with their own parents is now part of my life’s mission. I can no longer give my dad birthday gifts in this world, but trying to make a difference and battling the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s is a gift I will continue to give for the rest of my life.

I’ve posted this before, but I want to share again this montage of photos and my dad singing to me when I was a baby.

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