Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

This year’s bad flu season even worse for seniors

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Photo: David Lat/Freeimages

It’s the time of year when you can expect to hear a lot of coughing, sniffling and sneezing in public spaces. I just came back from the dentist and the receptionist sounded like she had flu symptoms. As my parents aged and developed health issues, I became more aware of the flu being a serious concern and not just a pesky ailment.

I’ve been reading a lot about how bad this year’s flu season is in the U.S. The flu deaths of children as well as young adults who were otherwise healthy have captured news headlines. While older people are more susceptible to experiencing severe symptoms when it comes to the flu, this year’s dominant strain is particularly of concern.

The H3N2 flu strain has reared its ugly head this season, STAT reported. Referring to H3N2 as the “problem child of seasonal flu,” this strain tends to strike seniors particularly hard, and usually leads to a spike in flu-related deaths. While it hasn’t been proven that H3N2 is actually more virulent than other strains, its ability to mutate has made it difficult to create a successful vaccine. Researchers also pose a theory of imprinting, in which a person’s ability to fight off the flu is associated with the person’s earliest experiences with the flu. Since H3N2 first emerged in 1968, our elder population would not have been exposed to the strain during childhood.

Another vulnerable population when it comes to the flu is people with dementia. It can be hard to enforce preventative measures such as washing hands when someone has memory issues. Those in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s may wander and pick up objects, or put things in their mouth.

In the last year of his life, my father was only partially verbal. If he was experiencing pain or any other symptom, I’m not certain he could have expressed it. Family caregivers are forced to look for secondary symptoms and related behaviors, such as a person’s appetite wanes because they don’t feel well. Certainly things like a cough or runny nose are obvious, but other symptoms may be more difficult to spot. Their throat hurts so they don’t want to consume food. Their nose is stuffy and they can’t smell food, impacting their appetite. They feel exhausted so they don’t want to get out of bed.

Treating flu symptoms of those with dementia can also be difficult. Anything that disrupts the routine can be a challenge for those with Alzheimer’s. My father was paranoid about taking pills or any kind of medication. Caregivers have to be creative when it comes to treatment. Don’t hesitate to take your loved one to the doctor if you are having difficulty managing symptoms. For those of you with loved ones in facility care, be extra vigilant in observing for flu symptoms when visiting, and make sure issues are addressed promptly by staff.

Here’s to hoping we can all stay healthy and avoid the flu this season.

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Challenges Facing Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Let’s start 2018 with getting back to basics. I come across so many family caregivers who have received no education or training about their loved one’s condition. If the medical community doesn’t have time to address this, then we will have to teach each other.

Here’s a good overview of Alzheimer’s disease from The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver blog. I especially like the infographic from GeriatricNursing.org that offers dementia caregivers alternative, healthier responses when they are faced with challenging behaviors.

via Challenges Facing Alzheimer’s Caregivers — The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver

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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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Capturing the power of music in the midst of Alzheimer’s

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Photo by Jean-Pierre Ceppo/Freeimages

I read a beautiful, poignant story earlier this month about a man with Alzheimer’s who is losing the ability to play the songs he wrote for his wife. These were songs he knew by heart, so he never wrote them down. No one expects a disease like Alzheimer’s to claim what is most precious and sacred to you.

Steve Goodwin, 67, became frustrated when he was unable to play his compositions. That’s when in walked an angel named Naomi Laviolette, a family friend. She plays the piano and asked if Goodwin could help her reconstruct his compositions. She’s recording them note for note so that Goodwin’s musical legacy will be preserved forever.

Goodwin’s wife, Joni, was moved to tears when she heard Laviolette play her husband’s music that she feared was lost. The pair have been married 47 years. She told CBS, “”Losing the songs would be like losing him.”

Goodwin even managed to write a new song, with Laviolette’s help.

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Glen Campbell leaves behind more than a musical legacy

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I was saddened to hear about the death of country music legend Glen Campbell, though he is now free from Alzheimer’s harrowing grip. It’s a huge loss in the music world, where Campbell was much more than just the “Rhinestone Cowboy,” he was an amazing session musician who could play a variety of instruments and his guitar work was phenomenal. He recorded some of the most influential songs of our time, and made them his own.

If you want to see Campbell performing all of his hits with a symphony, check out this YouTube video. He’s in great form here.

Of course, there was the man behind the music who struggled with a dark side that hid under his good guy public image. As Campbell hit middle-age, he became tabloid fodder, with multiple rocky marriages, kids he hardly knew and a bad cocaine and alcohol habit. He eventually got cleaned up and settled down with Kim Campbell, who would be tested when it came to the marriage vows of “in sickness and in health.”

Campbell and his family were very open with the public about his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It was a brave decision, and if you watch the moving documentary concert film, “I’ll Be Me,” you’ll see the triumphs and challenges that presented itself as Campbell performed with Alzheimer’s on his final tour. His bravery, and his family’s openness, helped renew the dialogue on Alzheimer’s disease, raising public awareness. In turn, that interest helps advocates demand more support for research, care options and caregiver support.

As Campbell dealt with the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, his family kept the public updated, sometimes sharing painfully honest accounts that any of us who have dealt with this heartbreaking disease can relate to. I had a feeling Campbell wouldn’t be around much longer when his daughter Ashley posted this heartbreaking photo on Father’s Day.  It reminded me of my father during the last months of his life, when Alzheimer’s had taken its toll.

Campbell’s family released an album of his final studio recording in June. The title, appropriately, is “Adios.” Farewell Glen, thanks for the memories.

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Breaking the news to someone with Alzheimer’s that their spouse has died

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Photo credit: Pixabay

Of all the things families have to deal with when their loved one has Alzheimer’s, explaining that a loved one has died is one of the most heartbreaking and difficult issues to handle. Guest author Michael Longsdon of ElderFreedom offers tips on how to approach this sensitive subject, and how caregiver should prepare for the moment.

How do you tell your loved one with Alzheimer’s that their spouse has died? It’s a tricky proposition – one that people with aging parents dread. It would be a lie to say it’s a easy process, but it can be manageable. Here are some tips.

Pick the right time

This is a judgment call, but some common strategies for having this tough conversation include making sure the person is in a safe, comfortable environment, trying to pick a more lucid moment to break the news, and trying to have only one person deal with the news as to minimize possible confusion.

Be straightforward

Every surviving spouse has the right to know that their loved one has died – no matter their condition. When having the first conversation (of many, to be sure), you must be as straightforward as possible. Speak slowly and calmly and tell them that their spouse has died. Avoid euphemistic phrases like they passed away or they are going to be gone for a while. You don’t have to get into the details, and you should stick to the basics if you can. If they ask for details, however, you should be honest.

Offer to go through the deceased’s belongings with them

The practical reason for doing this is that following any death, the surviving loved ones must go through the deceased’s belongings and decide what to keep, what to pass on to loved ones, and what to throw away. For someone with Alzheimer’s this process is vital because you don’t want them to have to do it themselves, plus you don’t want them to have to stumble upon troves of their dead spouse’s belongings, triggering confusion or agitation.

But it can be even more important in the immediate aftermath of the death. Going through old clothes, photos, jewelry, and keepsakes can help ground your loved one to the situation, and in some cases this methodical sorting through possessions can be cathartic. Your loved one may want to hold onto a particular item, which may give them comfort. Let them.

Don’t mistake forgetfulness for denial

“When dementia is severe, people aren’t just in denial. They truly have not been able to form the new memory that lets them remember their beloved family member or friend has died,” says caregiver Carol Bursack.

You’re going to be faced with times that your loved one simply doesn’t seem to be on the right page about their deceased spouse. They may think they’ve gone on a trip, or that they’ve left them. They may ask where they are, even hours after you told them about the death. Don’t think of this as denial. It’s simply a product of their Alzheimer’s. When it comes to what you do in these situations, it’s up to you. Judge the situation and determine whether it’s better to reinform them, or whether you should “punt” and either work around the truth or redirect them with something else. There’s really no right answer here –  it all depends on your loved one’s state at that very moment. It can change from day to day.

You may have to “break the news” to your loved one with Alzheimer’s more than once. How you choose to handle these situations is up to you. Most professionals believe, however, that the initial conversation is a must – both for ethical and practical reasons. Try to find a good time to have the conversation, remember to be straightforward, respect their reaction, and never try to limit their grief.

 

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