Category Archives: Awareness & Activism

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Awareness & Activism

‘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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Awareness & Activism

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Awareness & Activism

Can America afford to age in place?

reliable-cane-1571831-1278x883

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Awareness & Activism

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Awareness & Activism

Addressing aging issues, village by village

welcome-1196763-1599x1066

Anna Wolniak/Freeimages

While the concept that “it takes a village” has become a platitude in popular culture, there are people out there actually putting the village concept to the test. I’m now following the village concept in earnest, and will be interested in seeing how it develops.

I first heard of the concept through Kay Bransford, who has the excellent Dealing with Dementia blog.  She lives in McLean, Virginia, which is home to an active village community. The village is volunteer-based, and supports the needs of its inter-generational community members, with an emphasis on the aging population and the special needs of those with disabilities.

The idea of a grassroots movement that allows one to age-in-place without heavy government involvement is intriguing. The local, community-based approach makes the most sense to me, because neighborhoods have their own individual challenges and opportunities. We also shouldn’t hold our breath that the federal government is going to address the needs of our rapidly aging population anytime soon, no matter who’s in office.

The village movement began over 15 years ago, and the Village to Village Network was established in 2010. Over 200 villages now exist in 45 states. Members help each other by looking out for one another, making sure those who need help aging in place have access to affordable, dependable services for things like home repairs and running errands. Village communities work with existing government and community agencies to address any gaps in care and resources.

I think about how much a strong village model could have helped my parents as they dealt with medical issues and aging concerns.

What do you think about the village concept?

 

4 Comments

Filed under Awareness & Activism

High-tech invention helping those with dementia reconnect with memories

Embed from Getty Images

It only took 25 hours without power post-Hurricane Irma to realize how much we rely upon technology to manage our daily lives. It’s difficult for me to imagine life without the internet, because of its ability to supply endless amounts of knowledge and connect me to people with similar interests around the world. At the same time, I’ve had multiple people who I consider to be tech-savvy who have asked me about paperback editions of my book, because they prefer the feel of a print book versus the digital format.

I understand that preference, as well as the benefits and consequences of living in a digitally-driven world. One often-heard criticism is that technology can divide us, and make us more isolated. And while that can be true, a researcher has utilized a popular program from tech giant Google to develop a tool that can help bring those with dementia closer to the memories of their past.

BikeAround features a stationary bike placed in front of a screen. In tests of the prototype by Swedish engineer Anne-Christine Hertz, those with dementia are asked about where they grew up. Google Street View is used to create a “virtual ride down memory lane.” The theory is that the physical stimulation from pedaling helps stimulate the brain as well, helping those with memory loss recall details of their past more readily. You can see it in action below, I found the video very moving.

It was powerful to see this invention in action. We know that many people with dementia can recall the past, particularly their childhoods, better than they can the present, but the amount of details the man could remember was remarkable.  I would like to see this or similar devices placed in memory care centers and memory cafes.

1 Comment

Filed under Awareness & Activism, Memories