Touching wish from woman with Alzheimer’s

As National Caregiver Appreciation Month winds down, I came across this touching video from a women with Alzheimer’s. Pam Montana is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and knows what lies ahead. But she is not as concerned about herself as she is about her husband. Watch below as she explains her wish to family and friends.

Pam’s heartfelt message is a touching reminder for all of us to not forget about the caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. As Pam says, Alzheimer’s caregivers often feel isolation and suffer from depression. Don’t abandon them. Offer a sympathetic ear, check in on them to see how they’re doing, or offer to stay with their loved one so they can escape the house for a bit.

As Pam poignantly states, there will come a time when she will likely forget who her husband is. She doesn’t want their family and friends to do the same.

How do you stay in touch with caregivers in your life?

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AlzAuthors ebook sale is now live

Caregiver App Month Canva 2017

In honor of National Caregiver Appreciation Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, the authors group that I belong to, AlzAuthors, is hosting an ebook sale.

From now through Nov. 21, you can choose from over a dozen books written by  AlzAuthors members. While the topics of these books focus on Alzheimer’s and dementia, there’s a wide range of genres, from nonfiction to fiction and self-help guides. Prices range from free to $2.99. The Reluctant Caregiver, my collection of nontraditional essays on caregiving, is part of this sale. I had already reduced the price in half for this special month, but for the next week, you can purchase my book for only 99 cents.

It’s a great time to stock up, just in time for those long winter months when there’s more time for reading.

You can find more information about the ebook sale on the AlzAuthors blog.

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‘The Weight of Honor’ sheds light on family caregivers of veterans

On this Veterans Day weekend, I can’t think of a better topic to discuss than the new documentary, “The Weight of Honor.”

I have been following the making of this important documentary for awhile. I donated a very nominal amount (wish it could have been more) and received a lovely thanks in the film’s credits. It’s an honor to help support this documentary, which depicts those who often remain invisible: the family caregivers of military veterans. The filmmakers followed a group of female caregivers of catastrophically wounded veterans for five years, charting their triumphs and struggles.

Caring for wounded warriors is a unique experience, as debilitating physical wounds are often accompanied by equally brutal psychic wounds. PTSD can make recovery a challenge, which means the burden on caregivers is even greater. Along with that, many military wives are young and tending to children when their wounded husband returns home, requiring constant care. The documentary doesn’t shy away from the consequences of stress and caregiver burnout, and how it can end up straining relationships.

Overall, “The Weight of Honor” displays the tremendous resiliency that these caregivers exhibit every day of their lives. A life forever changed by the violence of war, but a life that they are determined to make the best of for their families. I’m thankful that the filmmakers chose to tell their stories in such compassionate detail.

I hope you get a chance to see this film. It is available for streaming on Amazon, YouTube and other major platforms. I’d love to hear what you think about it.

 

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Understanding the importance of self-care for Alzheimer’s disease caregivers

holding hands

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Here is a guest post from Lydia Chan of Alzheimer’s Caregiver. Her post covers a topic I strongly support: self-care for caregivers.

November is National Family Caregivers Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.  It’s important to understand the implications of caring for Alzheimer’s patients.  The disease is far-reaching, and being a caregiver is taxing physically and mentally.  If you’re a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s, here are some ways to offset the stress you may be experiencing.

If you care for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, you are not alone.  There are almost 15 million dementia and Alzheimer’s caregivers in America.  At this time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and there is limited relief for symptoms.  This leaves caregivers with what experts at HelpGuide describe as “a series of grief experiences as you watch your loved one’s memories disappear and skills erode. The person with Alzheimer’s will change and behave in different, sometimes disturbing or upsetting ways. For both caretakers and their patients, these changes can produce an emotional wallop of confusion, anger, and sadness.”

Potential burnout.  Caring for a loved one struggling with this disease can lead to burnout.  The chronic stress of the situation is emotionally and physically exhausting, and can leave you with no energy or interest to care for yourself or anyone else.  Here are signs some experts say indicate you may be reaching the breaking point:

  • Abuse of alcohol or medications
  • Unhealthy changes in appetite – overeating or undereating
  • Depression, hopelessness, loss of energy
  • Feeling alienated
  • Lack of self-control physically or emotionally
  • Rough treatment or neglect of the patient
  • Inability to sleep
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Not keeping appointments

Self-care for the caregiver.  Because you are traveling this difficult road, it’s essential that you take care of yourself.  Experts at the National Institute on Aging recommend the following:

Connect.  Participate in a caregivers’ support groups and spend time with friends.

Recreate.  Spend time doing your favorite hobbies and activities.

Maintain your physical health.  Eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.  Keep up routine medical exams.

Get help.  Don’t try to do everything all the time.  Take breaks daily and ask family members and friends to assist with some caregiving duties. Be specific when you ask for help from other family members and friends.  For instance, ask for someone to prepare supper or take your loved one shopping.  If you are having trouble finding help, you can pay someone to help for a couple hours per day.  If that isn’t possible, even a couple hours per week can provide relief.  If you aren’t sure how to find services, check out the Eldercare Locator.

Spend time with Fido.  Part of your self-care routine can include time with your four-legged family member.  According to some experts, dogs are a terrific relief for anxiety and depression.  Here are some of the ways your pooch can improve your well-being:

  • Lowers your blood pressure.
  • Offers a soothing presence.
  • Reduces cortisol.
  • Helps you forget negative emotions such as anger and frustration.
  • Offers unconditional support, love and companionship.
  • Encourages exercise.
  • Gets you outside to enjoy fresh air and sunshine.
  • Increases social interaction.

Make sure your time with your dog is a stress-reducer and not a stress-inducer.  If you have trouble getting to your dog’s needs at times, hire a dog walker to reduce stress associated with getting your pup exercised when you can’t be at home.

Your needs as a caregiver.  As someone who cares for an Alzheimer’s patient, you are under a fair amount of pressure.  Without proper care of yourself, you risk burnout.  Embrace a healthy, balanced lifestyle with good self-care. You will have more to offer yourself and the loved one you’re caring for.

For more respite care resources, visit Respite Care Share.

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Carve out Time at Thanksgiving to Talk with Family and Friends

Great advice. Take advantage of the upcoming holidays to have “the talk” about end-of-life care wishes.

Dealing with Dementia

carveouttimeThe fact that 9 out of 10 American’s will need someone to speak on their behalf before the end of their life was documented in a joint study done by the National Institutes of Health and Veteran’s Affairs.

Do yourself and your loved ones a favor by having a discussion about this FACT before you are faced with the reality. Those that step in to help will face a lifetime of guilt and doubt if you have not been clear about end-of-life wishes.

For those of us who have cared for someone with dementia, what we know is that there are years of choices to be made well before end-of-life that can be just as challenging. Telling someone I want to “die in my home” is probably not always practical, so offering some more guidance on ways you would like to spend your time if you have limited mobility or…

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Can America afford to age in place?

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Joe Zlomek/Freeimages

While many people, including myself, would prefer to age in place, for financially strapped communities throughout America, the trend is straining limited resources.

An article about my mother’s home state of Tennessee and its struggle to care for a rapidly growing older population is a scenario taking place in many states. Many state, county and city budgets are already overwhelmed with issues ranging from high unemployment to the opioid epidemic. I read one article that said older people calling 911 due to falls at home was straining EMS budgets. While the federal government contributes money to elder care each year via the Older Americans Act, it’s simply not enough to address the needs of a growing elder population.

In Tennessee, thousands of older people are on waiting lists for government assistance programs. The organizations do the best they can, but those cited in the article said more resources are needed, and officials are going to have to address the issue soon.

Transportation was listed as a major issue. While some older people may be physically healthy and not need in-home assistance, they may no longer be able to drive and need transportation options to maintain their quality of life and independence. This of course was an issue for my parents. Thankfully, they did have a county-funded shuttle service that they used for years. (Most county officials were against the idea of the shuttle, however. Its funding is always on the verge of being cut.)

Meal delivery was another major need. The meal delivery service also serves as a status check on the older person, so it has a dual purpose. For those in rural areas, this can be a lifeline.

In Tennessee, supporting someone staying in their home costs $3,000-$15,000 annually, while putting a person in a facility costs over $50,000 annually. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see what is the financially efficient solution. Unfortunately, the federal  government has not been proactive in addressing the issue. Tennessee reports some success at the state level, working with community organizations.

Has your community addressed aging in place issues? I’d love to hear about programs that are working in your area.

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Two isolated groups join forces via caregiving

young old wheelchair

Photo: svklimkin/Morguefile

Those of us who have cared for our elders know how advanced age and health issues can lead to social isolation. On the younger end of the spectrum, those with learning disabilities can feel ostracized from their peers. An innovative program in New York brings these two groups together and has created a beautiful sense of purpose for all involved.

Daniel Reingold, the CEO of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, founded HOPE in 1995, originally as a way to fill job vacancies at the nursing home by employing those born to drug-addicted mothers, The Associated Press reported. HOPE stands for “Health Care Offers Permanent Employment.” Over the years, the program has evolved to include those with autism and intellectual disabilities.

The thread that binds these two seemingly disparate groups is caregiving. The youths assist nursing home residents with daily tasks, and the nursing home residents help the young carers with academic tasks like reading, by giving them real-world history lessons by sharing their life stories, and by being patient as the youths learn to perform caregiving tasks.

It’s a win-win situation. The kids can graduate and work at the nursing home if they choose, or explore other job opportunities. Nursing home residents are energized by the presence of young people, who are eager to show them what they can do on their smartphones and other gadgets.

The kids also learn important lessons on life and death that their peers might miss. Favorite residents die, and the students have to learn how to cope with the loss.

I love to see innovative solutions to social issues that often get ignored, and hope such success stories will inspire others to implement similar programs.

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