Category Archives: Awareness & Activism

4 Disturbing Dementia Behaviors and How You Can Go From Frustration to Connection — The Imperfect Caregiver

This blog post by Bobbi Carducci is a good reminder on how dementia caregivers must learn a new way to connect and communicate with their loved one, as verbal skills begin to decline. She offers good tips on how you can manage some of the most difficult dementia behaviors.

Often the behavior of someone with dementia is so changeable and unpredictable it’s almost impossible to figure out what is going on, leaving the caregiver confused and frustrated. Why is your spouse confused with you and so alert when someone comes to visit? Why does your mother, who is usually calm and agreeable, suddenly become […]

via 4 Disturbing Dementia Behaviors and How You Can Go From Frustration to Connection — The Imperfect Caregiver

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January 31, 2019 · 9:19 pm

New study suggests link between gum disease, Alzheimer’s

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I typically don’t put much credence in the latest health study. In my field, we are flooded with studies every day. For example, the one that was trending today: eating fried chicken on a regular basis is bad for you. Wow, what a shocker. They had to do a study to determine that fried food isn’t good for you?

I know there is a lot of good work being done by hardworking researchers, whose goal is to find the cause of Alzheimer’s so that an effective treatment and/or cure can be developed. One such study this week did pique my interest, because it touched a nerve, pun intended.

The study suggests that there may be a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. I have gum disease, and even though I’m vigilant about my dental care, I have a couple of concerning pockets that are going to need scaling and root planing (it’s about as fun as it sounds.) My parents had major dental issues, and I feel like lousy teeth is just something I inherited. As I get older, I have become more concerned about my oral health, because gum disease has been linked to diabetes which is prevalent on both sides of my family.

The latest study, which focuses on Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria that causes periodontal disease, involves both human and mice testing. Scientists found that P. gingivalis can be found in the brains of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, not just in their mouths. Applying P. gingivalis to the gums of healthy mice for several weeks led to increased amyloid production and damaged tau protein. The proteins are believed to create the tangles in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s that leads to cognition issues.

Other scientists in the field were less convinced that there is a direct cause between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. As is with all of these studies, there is much more research to be done. But tending to your gum health, especially if you have periodontal disease like I do, is wise whether or not the connection to Alzheimer’s proves to be true.

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#WeKnowYouCare recognizes male caregivers

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In a week in which a razor ad triggered an online discussion about “toxic masculinity,” a new campaign is highlighting an often overlooked group of caregivers: men.

Caring Across Generations launched the “We Know You Care” campaign, to raise awareness of the loving devotion of male caregivers, along with the unique struggles they face. I’ve met many wonderful male caregivers through my years of caring for my parents. From professional caregivers to devoted husbands and fathers, men have proven that they are tough enough and compassionate enough to handle the role of caregiver, in spite of lingering stereotypes that assume only females can provide care.

As Caring Across Generations’ co-director Ai-jen Poo points out, approximately 40 percent of caregivers are male.

Meet Ivan, who shares his caregiving experience. I appreciate his honesty, and his ability to be vulnerable when admitting the ares of caregiving that are a struggle for him. I certainly could relate. My struggles inspired my book, The Reluctant Caregiver.

The movement was prompted by the film, On the Basis of Sex, which looks at a case involving a male caregiver named Charles Moritz that a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued and won, long before she was appointed as a Supreme Court Justice.

While women have long assumed the caregiving role, and been expected to, we are moving into a period in which more people, both men and women, will need to serve as caregivers. Our population is rapidly aging and there are not enough caregivers in the workforce to meet the demand. It’s time to break down traditional stereotypes and equip everyone, regardless of gender, with the tools and support they need to be the best caregivers they can be.

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Make 2019 a year for caregiver intentions

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For caregivers, a new year doesn’t always feel like a new beginning. The grueling 24/7 responsibilities of caring for a loved one can temper the enthusiasm for a new year.  Caregiving can be isolating, especially during the winter months, and its easy to feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. New year, same old blah.

If you are caring for someone nearing the end of their life, it also can be difficult to embrace the optimism that a new year is supposed to bring.

While I can’t guarantee that your caregiver journey will be better in 2019 (I wish I could!) there is one thing you do have power over, and that is your mindset. I know the last thing I wanted to hear when I was a caregiver was well-meaning advice about taking charge of my attitude. When I talk about mindset, it’s not about finding the silver lining in everything or making lemonade out of lemons or whatever tired cliche you want to choose.

This is where setting intentions come in, versus the typical new year resolutions. Instead of making a hyper-specific goal, such as losing 20 pounds, you could set an intention for eating healthier food in 2019. This could include things like cooking healthy recipes at home, going to a farmer’s market, or tending to a garden at home.  By setting this intention and taking action on it, you may discover that you lose a few pounds along the way. If not, that doesn’t mean you failed. Eating more nutritious food has benefits beyond what you find on a scale.

You don’t need to attach numbers or due dates; intentions don’t expire but are often lifelong aspirations worth the time and effort invested.

For those caring for a loved one with dementia, consider an intention centered around collecting memories, which could include filling out the family tree and creating scrapbooks.  Self-care is another important intention that all of us should focus on in the new year. It’s one of those annoying buzzwords, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that caregivers have to find a way to recharge.

Those embarking upon the end-of-life phase as a caregiver may find that an intention centered around what a good death means to your loved one and family is useful during this challenging time.

Whether you call them intentions or resolutions, I hope that 2019 treats you and your loved ones well.

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When You Should Say “No” in Caregiving — The Purple Jacket

Caregivers, try practicing the art of saying “no” during the increased demands of the holiday season. Not only is it acceptable to say no, it is healthy and necessary so that you don’t get burned out. Saying “no” can be the beginning of an equally important conversation: “I need help with caregiving.”

We welcome back guest writer, Kayla Matthews to The Purple Jacket! Caregiving for an elderly relative is a role that falls on different family members and professional caregivers depending on the family and expectations. And many families often fail to discuss how much responsibility a caregiver should take on and for how long. When the […]

via When You Should Say “No” in Caregiving — The Purple Jacket

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December 18, 2018 · 6:21 pm

Winter is coming, time for caregivers to prepare

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What may be a winter wonderland to some can quickly become treacherous territory for our elder loved ones. But there’s no need to be a Debbie Downer about it; there are simple steps caregivers can take so that their loved ones can stay safe during this time of year.

There’s good reason you’ll find so many snowbirds migrating to Florida or other regions with warm winter weather. While the snow can be pretty, it can be a chore to deal with. Getting out of the house can be near impossible, leaving seniors homebound for lengths of time. This happened to my parents when they retired to a mountain community in New Mexico.

If your elder loved ones have decided to remain in an area prone to winter weather, Forbes has some tips for caregivers on winterproofing.

  • Heating source: Make sure your elder loved ones have a reliable heating source and get it checked out annually to ensure its optimum functioning. If space heaters are used, monitor their usage to prevent fires. All homes should have operational smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Stock up on supplies: Make sure your loved ones have a stocked pantry and have plenty of essentials, such as toilet paper. The same applies to any medications. Make sure some of the food is ready to eat, in case there’s a power outage. If a major blizzard keeps your loved ones homebound for a few days, you can rest assured that your loved ones won’t go hungry.
  • Preventing falls/exposure to cold: Several steps can be taken to ensure your loved one remains safe while outdoors during the winter. Proper clothing and shoes are essential. Clear walkways of snow and ice; check for slippery spots. (Make sure it’s not the senior doing the shoveling, as the strenuous activity can be dangerous for older people.)
  • Winter driving: If your elder loved one still drives, proper car maintenance is essential. Make sure they have an emergency kit in the car.

One of the best tools our elder loved ones can have is a cellphone. Encourage them to carry that phone with them at all times, even if they are just walking down the front path to the mailbox. A slip on an icy spot could turn a routine task into a medical situation. Having a phone handy could mean the difference between life and death.

Dementia caregivers should be extra vigilant about preventing their loved ones from wandering away. My father had several wandering episodes and one occurred around the time police found an older gentleman with dementia who had froze to death after wandering and getting lost outdoors during the winter months. I’m grateful that law enforcement was always able to track down my father before he was harmed, but I realize not all families are so fortunate.

Winter weather can also be very peaceful and tranquil. There’s nothing like being cozy indoors with a cup of hot cocoa while the snow falls outside. Talk to your loved ones about their winter memories on your next visit.

 

 

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Don’t overlook the importance of bathroom safety as a caregiver

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Every time I hear about an older celebrity who suffers a serious injury or dies after a fall in the bathroom, I’m reminded of how treacherous that room of the house can become for those aging in place. I became personally familiar with the danger the bathroom can present when my mother broke her shoulder after falling off the toilet in the middle of the night.

The good news is that there are fairly simple and inexpensive ways to make a bathroom safer for an elder loved one. BuyMedical.com offers the following five recommendations from Invacare Homecare for helpful bathroom aids.

Transfer bench: When I began to help my mother get baths at home after her surgery, I realized how precarious the transfer from the bathtub to the bathroom could be. Getting a transfer bench made all the difference, allowing her to easily transfer herself from tub while seated. She would just swing her legs over the tub to the bathmat, then hold on to the bench as she lifted herself upright.

Shower chair:  I can vouch for the benefit of a shower chair, as my mother used hers for the last couple of years of her life. Bathing can become a real chore and risky as we get older, and our mobility fades. But good hygiene is important both physically and mentally. A shower chair reduces the risk of falling by allowing one to sit comfortably while getting a shower, instead of trying to lower themselves into the bathtub.

Toilet seat frame: A toilet seat frame offers sturdy support for those who have trouble getting up and down. This helps reduce the risk of falls, slips and injuries.

Raised toilet seat: This is one of those things you don’t think about until you need one. Whether due to recent surgery or just difficulty in lowering the body, a raised toilet seat offers affordable convenience.

Commodes: I wish my mother had received her portable commode sooner, because I think it would have made the last few weeks of her life easier. Unfortunately, the home hospice group didn’t deliver it until she was almost bedridden, and she only used it once. Supporting an elder loved one’s continence is vital for their well-being.

Not only do these bathroom safety aids help your elder loved one, they make your job as a caregiver easier as well.

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