Archive for January 2013

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Genetic Predisposition to Alzheimer’s: Would You Want to Know?

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Having a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s disease does increase one’s risk somewhat above the general population’s risk of developing the disease. Some people with such family histories, and some without such histories, wish to have a genetic test that will answer the question: ‘Will I be next?’” But the real question is “Would I Want to Know?”

Here are 10 reasons I propose that you might be better-off knowing:

  1. You can draw up health care documents. These include a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care.
  2.  You can develop financial directives such as a general power of attorney and a will.
  3.  You can conduct long-term financial planning while you’re still able to.
  4.  You can do now the things you’ve always planned to do when you retire.
  5.  You can resign or retire from your job or take an early retirement, if you can afford it.
  6.  You can try to reduce your hours, if you can’t leave work entirely.
  7.  You can spend more time enjoying your family and friends.
  8.  If you develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s at least you’ll know why and not expect so much of yourself.
  9.  You can tell family and friends so they will understand and possibly avoid becoming frustrated or even angry about any difficult behaviors you may exhibit.

In addition, you can do some serious thinking about your life and decide if there’s anything else you want to do now.

Getting tested for a genetic susceptibility to Alzheimer’s, especially if the disease runs in your family, is a very personal decision. However, knowing the results, particularly if they do show an increased risk, may help you make the right decisions about your life now.

 

 

 

When It’s Alzheimer’s: Realization vs. Acceptance

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Realization and acceptance are two different things. It’s one thing to finally realize someone close to you has Alzheimer’s. It’s a completely different thing to accept that fact.

After months or even years of being in denial, most people finally realize Alzheimer’s has struck. But many people never really come to accept the situation. Some never become at peace with the diagnosis and all that it means. They know it in their brains, but as hard as they try they can’t accept it in their hearts.  The bold truth is so painful we can push it to the back of our minds.

To come to terms with Alzheimer’s we must first let go of the previous person and embrace the new person – just as they are. And since that person will continue changing as time goes by, we must constantly let go of the old and accept the new.

We must fall in love again with the person as he or she is in the present and let go of the person we used to love. That person is never coming back in the same way they used to be.

We must learn to let go and learn to love again.

Does anyone have any experiences about this to share with other readers? Have you gone through this experience? How did you handle it emotionally?

 

25 Tips for Coping With Early Alzheimer’s Memory Problems

Monday, January 7th, 2013

This post is much longer than my usual ones, but I feel it’s important enough to make it that long.

If you have early Alzheimer’s, the associated memory loss can impair your ability to do simple as well as complicated tasks. Here are 25 tips that will help you compensate for your declining memory.

  • Cook in the microwave as often as possible rather than on the stove so it won’t matter if you go off and forget it.
  • Make lists of things you have to do and always put them in the same place. Make sticky note reminders and put them in places where you’re sure to see them.
  • If you get distracted while trying to drive with other people in the car, let someone else drive.
  • Make a shopping list even if there are only three or four items on it. It may save you from having to return to the store.
  • Never leave the room when water is running in a sink or bathtub. You may forget about it and cause a flood.
  • Put things you’ll need when you go out (phone, glasses, etc.) right beside your keys to be sure you’ll remember to take them. This works because you most likely won’t go anywhere without your keys.
  • If a task is too complicated for you don’t even try to do it if it’s just going to frustrate you. Try to find someone else to do it even if you have to pay them.
  • If you use a laptop for work, put it right in front of the door in the morning so you won’t forget to take it to work.
  • It isn’t advisable to use the stove but it you do, stay right there to avoid forgetting it and burning up the pan or starting a fire.
  • If you’re going to a meeting make a detailed list of what you want to say.
  •  If you forget the date or day of the week are, look on your cell phone.
  • It isn’t advisable to burn candles, but if you do, put them very far from all other objects in case you forget to extinguish them.If you have trouble remembering people’s names just greet them without saying their name. It’s better than calling them by the wrong name.
  • Print out important documents in your computer so if you can’t find them or you accidentally delete them, you’ll still have copies that could be retyped.
  • Put objects in prominent places to remind you to do things. For example, putting a laundry basket on the floor in the middle of a room will remind you to do the laundry.
  • When you call someone, write down your phone number and put it beside the phone in case you have to leave a voice mail requesting a return call and you can’t remember your number on the spot.
  • If you are learning anything new – even something simple – write down exactly how to do it for future reference, especially if it’s something you won’t be doing very often.
  • If you can’t follow along in courses or seminars don’t go to them. Instead get a book or a tutor so you can learn at your own pace.
  • Make a general rule not to spend too much time looking for things you’ve misplaced. They may be in some strange place and will turn up only later when you’re doing something else.
  • Try to always put your keys, glasses, etc. in the same place.
  • Use pill boxes to remind you to take medication.
  • Consider doing things when they’re on your mind rather than later so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. This helps reduce stress.
  • If driving to certain places (such as the airport) is too stressful, have someone else drive or take a bus or taxi.
  • Above all, stick to the same daily routine as much as possible. This, too, reduces stress.

You may wonder how you can remember all these tips, and that’s a good question. I recommend you start with a few, then add others as time goes by. Also, put this list somewhere you’ll see it. Finally, if you live with other people, ask them to remind you of the items on the list.

While these tips won’t help you compensate for all memory problems, they can go a long way toward improving your functioning despite your condition.

This list is not complete by any means. Do any of you have some strategies to add to it?

 

 

 

Connecting With Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Patients

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

The following four activities are virtually guaranteed to reach persons at all stages of Alzheimer’s: 1) Being visited by a child, 2) Being visited by a pet, 3) Listening to or performing music and 4) Observing or creating artwork.  

1. Being Visited by a Child

It’s a well-known fact that children can reach demented people at a deep emotional level that adults often cannot.

Children can play with people with Alzheimer’s. If you need some specific ideas check out the Alzheimer’s Association website, which has a list of 101 things a child can do with someone who has Alzheimer’s. (www.Alz.org)

2. Being Visited by a Pet 

Much like children, animals can often touch demented people more deeply than people can.

For example. at a nursing home there was a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient whose face someone’s dog licked when he held him up for her to see. The visitor told her the dog didn’t usually “kiss” people he didn’t know, and she immediately answered, “Dogs are very selective.” That was the first lucid remark she’d made for months.

3.  Listening to or Performing Music 

After listening to music some are clearly more calm, in a better mood and more outgoing than before, which improves the quality of life for both the patient and the caregiver. Music has even been found to help those with dementia retrieve some memories their caregivers had assumed were lost forever.

Often times late stage Alzheimer’s patients can sing songs, including the lyrics, long after they’ve lost the ability to recognize loved ones, dress themselves, or remember what happened five minutes earlier.

4.  Observing or Creating Artwork                     

 If your loved one is able to go out, a trip to an art museum could also be very beneficial. Just looking at art, much like listening to music, has been shown to calm dementia patients.

In the late stage of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients can often still create striking art work that allows them to express themselves and connect with their loved ones – even when they can no longer speak.

You can arrange various types of art projects for your loved one. Common activities include painting with water colors, coloring with crayons, making scrapbooks or molding objects out of clay.

Resources: 

There is an online store, Best Alzheimer’s Products, that features games for those with Alzheimer’s. http://www.best-alzheimers-products.com/games-for-people-with-alzheimer’s.html.

For more specific ideas about how to use music to engage people who have dementia go to: http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2011/11/music-and-alzheimers-disease-using.html.

Do any of you have any other ideas about connecting with late-stage patients? If so, please share them.