Archive for November 2012

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Planning for the Holidays When You Have a Loved One With Alzheimer’s

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Holidays can be stressful for both the person with Alzheimer’s and the rest of the family. Consider these tips to help make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

1. If you’re caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s at home:

Tone down your decorations: Blinking lights and large decorative displays can cause disorientation.

Host quiet, slow-paced gatherings: Music, conversation and meal preparation all add to the noise and stimulation of an event. Yet for a person who has Alzheimer’s, a calm, quiet environment usually is best.

2. If your loved one lives in a nursing home or other facility:

Celebrate in the most familiar setting: For many people who have Alzheimer’s, a change of environment — even a visit home — causes anxiety. Consider holding a family celebration at the facility.

Minimize visitor traffic: Arrange for a few people to drop in on different days to avoid the commotion of having several visitors all at once.

Schedule visits at your loved one’s best time of day: Your loved one may appreciate morning and lunchtime visitors more than those in the afternoon or evening.

Does anyone have any other tips to share that you’ve successfully used at various holidays? What holiday was it and what did you do that worked?

Shortened from:

A Resource for You: Journey of a Lifetime by Jane Meier Hamilton

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

BOOK REVIEW. The Journey of a Lifetime: The Caregiver’s Guide to Self-Care, By Jane Meier Hamilton, MSN, RN. Infinity. 2010. 129 pages. Available on

Ms. Hamilton has been a psychiatric nurse for 35 years and a family caregiver for 20 years. For 8 of those years she cared for her mother, who had Alzheimer’s.

Many helpful caregiver resources are included in this book. Each chapter presents: 1) A story from the author’s Alzheimer’s caregiving experience, 2) Practical self-care recommendations, 3) Suggested self-care activities, 4) Other caregiver resources, and 5) Inspiring quotes from authors, philosophers, and others. The book also includes questionnaires to help readers assess their caregiving experiences.

The nice things about this book are that it’s short, easy to read, and to the point. Also, it focuses on down-to-earth, practical strategies caregivers can immediately put into practice. This makes it a valuable resource for those who don’t have time to read long, complicated self-care manuals. I highly recommend this book to you.

Antipsychotics for Dementia Patients With Extremely Severe Symptoms

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Alzheimer’s disease is often accompanied by serious problems such as psychosis, delusions, mania, extreme irritability and aggressiveness, just to name a few. The first step in dealing with these is to get a thorough medical evaluation to be sure that other health issues are not causing or contributing to the problem. The next course of action is usually trying non-pharmacological approaches to the problem.

But if those approaches don’t work, you may want to consult your loved one’s physician about trying an antipsychotic medication. Despite their potential effectiveness, though, these drugs can have very serious side effects. Especially an increased risk of mortality in older adults with dementia.

But the Alzheimer’s Association states that their use may be appropriate for individuals with severe symptoms or who have the potential to harm themselves or others. The Association also says that in some cases the risks of the symptoms may be worse than those of the medication.

If used, antipsychotics should be prescribed in the lowest dose possible for the shortest period of time. This is the key advice that can prevent the horrors that are experienced by some Alzheimer’s patients taking antipsychotics.

When Ed was put on both an antidepressant and an antipsychotic he changed from being depressed, agitated, and having hallucinations and delusions to being one of the most contented, calm and lovable people you’d ever want to meet.

For patients with the most severe symptoms it basically comes down to this: Would you rather have your loved one continue living with agitation, psychosis, mania or other extreme conditions or would you rather try to afford your loved one a better quality of life despite the risk that their life may be shortened?

A daunting decision.

Has anyone out there had a loved one who was put on antipsychotics? Were the results positive or negative? Would you do it again? Why or why not?

Advice from Leeza Gibbons – Champion for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Breathe: Start by taking 10 purposeful breaths; breathing in sheer certainty that you are doing your best. Breathe out all the negativity that weighs heavily on you. This can change your physical and emotional state so you can better cope with your caregiver stress.

Believe: Now is the time to be an optimist. Know that your efforts will be enough. Believe that you can get empowered by others who have achieved this before you.

Receive: Everyone has limits. Know that real strength comes from knowing when to ask for help. When someone says, “Do you need anything?” say “yes,” and be prepared to tell them a specific way they could help.

Source: This is a shortened version of interview with Leeza on CNN, April 26, 2011.

Note: After Leeza Gibbons’ grandmother and mother died of Alzheimer’s disease, she decided to help other family members caring for their loved ones with the disease. She created Leeza’s Place, a facility for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

How To Deal With Family Strife Over Your Caregiving

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s can create tremendous stress in families. In families where there is generally good will, conflicts can typically be worked through for the common good. However, in families where people didn’t get along well before the diagnosis, it can create nightmares, especially for the primary caregiver.

The situation can become worse if some family members live out of town and only see the loved one for short, infrequent visits. They just don’t have the opportunity to witness the severity and frequency of demented behaviors you deal with every day.

You may find you’re being criticized unfairly for the care you’re providing even though you’re doing a heroic job and making major sacrifices in your personal life to do so. This can lead to bitterness and create extreme disharmony in the family.

Here are a few things you can try to reduce the friction:

1)      Be Patient and Understand Where They’re Coming from:  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand why they lack knowledge of the situation. If you can stay calm you’ll have a better chance of decreasing stressful interactions.

2)      Educate Others about the Patient’s Condition: Make very detailed lists of the patient’s dementia behaviors and share them with family members. Remember, they’ve never seen many of the things you see on a daily basis. Update these lists and share them frequently.

3)      Have Others Care for the Patient for Awhile:  The best way to let other family members understand the loved one’s condition is to have them take care of the patient for awhile. Afterwards you may find you’re being criticized less and appreciated more.

This is such a common problem probably many of you have experienced it to one degree or another. Care to share your experiences? Did you come up with strategies that worked well?

Go to this Mayo Clinic article ( for more information on this topic.

November Is National Family Caregivers Month

Friday, November 9th, 2012

November is National Family Caregivers Month – a time to thank, support, educate and empower family caregivers.

During this month we’re reminded, however, that caregivers are struggling to cope with the rigorous demands of caring for family members or friends with chronic illnesses.

More than 65 million people, a full 29% of the U.S. population, care for someone who is chronically ill, disabled, or aged, and they spend an average of 20 hours per week performing their duties. Those responsible for Alzheimer’s patients have an incredibly demanding task.

Alzheimer’s caregiver stress is at an all-time high. More than 60% rate their emotional stress as high or very high, and one-third report symptoms of depression.

Alzheimer’s caregivers also report a negative impact on their employment and finances. Some are forced to change from full-time to part-time jobs or stop working completely. Others fear losing their jobs due to repeated requests for time off to handle unexpected situations requiring their attention.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to alleviate the stress and other negative consequences of caregiving. Perhaps the single most important thing is to ask for help with your caregiving duties. People want to help – they just don’t know what to do. As I’ve said many times in this blog, be prepared with specific requests for the next time someone asks if they can do anything for you.

For more information on stress management for Alzheimer’s caregivers go to,, or You can also find advice in the other posts on this blog and by doing a Google search on “Caregiver Stress.”

Book to Be Featured on Maria Shriver’s Home Page

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Sometime within the next week or two an article about Come Back Early Today will be featured on Maria Shriver’s website home page. I’ll send the link as soon as it’s published. (Her website is extremely popular and I anticipate selling several books.) The article to be featured there is actually a synopsis of the book.

The Funniest Review I’ve Ever Received!

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

The following review by Craig Thomas is the funniest one I’ve ever received: “Once I started, there was absolutely no way to stop reading this book until its final page. The house is a mess and I don’t care. Brava.”

Go to and type my name in the search box to read all 34 reviews of Come Back Early Today.