Archive for November 2013

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The Use of Anti-psychotic Medication in People Who Have Alzheimer’s

Friday, November 29th, 2013

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.

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.

 

What If Alzheimer’s Had Never Come Into My Life?

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

If I’d never been an Alzheimer’s caregiver, my life now would be totally different. I’m not sure what I would be doing but I can certainly tell you what I would not be doing.

For the last seven years – since Ed passed away – I have devoted my entire life to activities involving Alzheimer’s caregiving.

I wrote a book about my experience as a caregiver and I blog on that topic on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room and on the Huffington Post.

Plus, I have a website where I blog and produce a monthly newsletter targeted to caregivers.

In addition I have started doing public speaking about caregiving – both locally and state-wide. I have spoken to several Alzheimer’s support groups as well as to a large group of nursing home Activity Directors.

Finally, I volunteer once a week to visit some ladies with Alzheimer’s (at a local memory care facility) who don’t have many visitors.

Had I not been an Alzheimer’s caregiver I wouldn’t be doing any of these activities. And honestly, I have no earthly idea what I would be doing. I can’t even imagine my life without Alzheimer’s having been in it.

Yes, it was very difficult at the time – often very difficult – for the entire seven years. But the experience has turned out to be one that has enriched my life tremendously.

10 Tips for Visiting a Friend With Alzheimer’s

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

 

  1. Start off by looking friendly, making eye contact, offering a handshake and introducing yourself.
  2. Be at their level physically – bend down if necessary – for example, if they are in a wheelchair.
  3. Talk about the old times more than recent information.
  4. Don’t ask if they remember something.
  5. Speak calmly, slowly and in short sentences.
  6. Ask only one question at the time and pause between thoughts or ideas to give them a chance to answer.
  7. Don’t correct them or argue with them.
  8. Keep memories positive. Don’t bring up topics that could upset them. Turn negatives into positives.
  9. Do something with the person rather than just talking to them. Bring pictures, CDs of music the person used to enjoy, or other “props” (such as items related to one of the person’s special interests), to bring up old memories.
  10. Tell them what you are going to do before you do it – especially if you are going to touch them.

Following these tips should make you feel more at ease and make your visit more enjoyable.

Note: These tips were compiled from publications by me and by Carole Larkin, and from personal communications from Teepa Snow and from Tom and Karen Brenner.