Archive for February 2014

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What to Do When You Just Can’t Take it Anymore

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Sign up Your Loved One for Day Care: Enrolling your loved one in day care can do wonders to relieve your stress and give you some blessed time for yourself. You may worry that the person will be lost without you, but most people with Alzheimer’s adjust. If you can’t afford this on an ongoing basis, do it at least for a while.

Obtain Around the Clock Respite Care:  Around the clock respite care will give you even more time to yourself. You can have the person stay at a facility or with a friend, relative or neighbor. Again, if you can’t afford ongoing respite care, do it for a short period of time while you recharge your batteries.

Call in a Geriatric Care Manager: Geriatric Care Managers are health and human services specialists who help families caring for older relatives. They are trained and experienced in any of several fields related to care management.  You can read more about them and locate one in your area by going to the profession’s website.

Contact the Alzheimer’s Association: The Alzheimer’s Association website has ample advice for caregivers. It also has a 24/7 helpline manned by trained professionals (1.800.272.39001.800.272.3900.)

Contact the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America: This is another helpful resource for burned out caregivers. The Foundation offers counseling and advice Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM (Eastern Time) by phone, Skype, or live chat. You can reach the Foundation at 1.866.AFA.848411.866.AFA.84841.866.AFA.8484866.AFA.8484.

See a Psychotherapist: Nearly all overwhelmed caregivers could benefit from seeing a therapist. Therapists can help you better understand your situation and coach you on how to make time for yourself, as well as gain a better perspective of your caregiving duties. It’s a good idea to get a referral from a friend or relative. A few visits can help, even if you don’t have the funds for long-term therapy.

Visit with Your Pastor: If you regularly attend church, talking with your pastor can be a good substitute for psychotherapy. A pastor can help you with the same things therapists do.








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5 Things I Learned From People With Alzheimer’s

Friday, February 21st, 2014

1.    Pets, children, music and art may reach them on levels we cannot: I have experienced numerous examples of the positive effects these things can have on people with Alzheimer’s. Sometimes pets, children, music or art can bring about connections even with people who no longer talk or recognize their loved ones.

2.    Just because they don’t talk doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly aware of what’s going on around them: One of my ladies didn’t talk anymore so when I visited I just held her hand and talked to her softly. When I told her she must be very proud of her daughter she adamantly shook her head from side to side, indicating ‘no.’ That told me she understood perfectly well what I was saying.

 3.    Correcting them about something will probably either embarrass them or else start a big argument: To avoid embarrassing the person or, even worse, to avoid a major argument, try agreeing with whatever they say, even if it’s wrong. It takes some time to master this approach, but it is usually successful.

4.    They can still enjoy life: Many people assume that people with Alzheimer’s can’t enjoy life. However, several experts I interviewed unanimously agreed that although Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, people who have it can and do still have the capacity to enjoy life.

5.    People with Alzheimer’s may remember past love and also experience love in the present: Once I showed Ed an old picture of us together. He said, “Ah . . . She loved me.” He didn’t realize I was the woman in the picture but he remembered that she had loved him.


Bring Joy to a Person With Alzheimer’s

Monday, February 17th, 2014

I volunteer to visit some women with dementia at a local memory care facility. Ethel is one of my “ladies.” One day I took her a small wrapped gift – just a decorative note pad. When she saw the present her whole face lit up.

As she was beginning to unwrap it I told her, “It’s just a small gift, Ethel. It’s no big deal.”

Her response was very touching.

“I know, honey, but it’s a present.”

By that she meant she was happy to get a present no matter what it was. She meant that getting presents is special.

I always wrap the presents, even if they are little things you might not ordinarily wrap, such as a couple of cans of Dr. Pepper I took Ethel. She enjoyed tearing off the wrapping paper more than she enjoyed the soft drinks.

You should be prepared, however, for a gift to be instantly set aside and subsequently ignored. You see, they enjoy seeing and unwrapping a present more than they enjoy having it. I think that’s because they immediately forget about it once they’ve opened it.

The thing to remember is that people with Alzheimer’s live only in the present. If you understand that you won’t be disappointed when they shunt the present aside.  The main thing is to bring them pleasure in the moment and that’s what a wrapped gift usually does.


Note: I have changed the names of all of the women to protect their privacy.

A Resource for You: The Alzheimer’s Reading Room

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The Alzheimer’s Reading Room ( is the largest blog of its type and the number one source of life news for the entire Alzheimer’s community, with more than 3,500 articles in its knowledge base.  It has more than 7,600 subscribers and averages over 50,000 unique visitors per month. This site is a “must follow” for Alzheimer’s caregivers. Its goal is: to Educate, sometimes Entertain, and Empower Alzheimer’s caregivers, their families, and the entire Alzheimer’s community.

Founded by Bob DeMarco, who cared for his mother with Alzheimer’s for eight years, the articles on the site discuss issues that are important to Alzheimer’s caregivers. They provide specific insight, advice, and solutions based on real life experience. To review the articles I have published there go to the site and type my name in the search box half way down on the home page.

Entertaining People With Early- to Late-Stage Alzheimer’s

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

At the early stage of Alzheimer’s you can often entertain patients by engaging them in whatever fun activities they enjoyed before developing Alzheimer’s.

Some games may need to be adjusted, however, to accommodate your loved one’s diminishing mental capacity. For example, you may need to play a child’s card game instead of bridge; checkers instead of chess. Or, if the person previously enjoyed jigsaw puzzles, you may need to find ones with fewer and larger pieces (see below for a source of these). 

At the mid stage of the disease, people with Alzheimer’s may have more or less the mental and social skills of a toddler. While it’s excellent to do the standbys – things like looking at old pictures or watching movies together, those are somewhat passive.

With a little thought you can find more active ways to spend time together, such as giving your loved one toys or other “props” that the two of you play with together. The key words here are “play” and “together.”

Some people with Alzheimer’s cannot be reached by any means, but try experimenting with the ideas mentioned here.

Note: You can find puzzles designed especially for Alzheimer’s patients at Max Wallack’s website, www.Puzzles to Remember. They come in various sizes and number of pieces to accommodate the skills of early or middle stage patient and they have scenes that are appealing to people with Alzheimer’s.


Do any of you have any other methods for entertaining people with early- to mid-stage Alzheimer’s?

A Walk on the Light Side of Alzheimer’s Caregiving

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Alzheimer’s disease is a deadly serious topic, and deservedly so. But sometimes laughter is the best medicine. So I’m going to share two amusing stories about Ed. He also found them funny and we both had a good laugh!

An Alzheimer’s Sneaky Thief

 After finishing each meal at the Alois Alzheimer Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Ed would always wrap the spoon in a napkin, put it in the breast pocket of his sport coat and take it back to his room.

Pretty soon his room would have spoons all over the place so the staff would go get them and return them to the kitchen. But sure enough, the next day he would start a new collection.

I often sat with him when he was eating and had observed this behavior many times. Finally, one day when he started his cleaning ritual I said to him, “Don’t take those spoons, Ed. They don’t belong to you. They belong to the facility.”

“Oh, no!” he said, loudly enough for everyone to hear. “I take them every day with no remorse!”

The Lee-tle Pee-lows

Spoons weren’t the only thing Ed pilfered from the facility. They had sofas in the lobby that had little designer pillows on them. For some reason Ed was drawn to those little pillows (or ‘pee-lows’ as he pronounced it) and took them back to his room, too.

The staff would go to his room periodically, retrieve all the little pillows and return them to the sofas. And just as with the spoons, he would begin stealing them all over again the very next day.

One day I said to him, “You really enjoy stealing your spoons, don’t you?”

Ed got a sly grin on his face.

“It isn’t just the spoons I steal,” he said proudly in his thick Romanian accent. “I also r-r-really love to take those ‘lee-tle pee-lows’!”

He began laughing and so did I. And – you guessed it – he kept right on stealing the spoons AND the ‘pee-lows’!

I invite all of you to share your own precious amusing stories.

For more humorous stories about Ed, as well as numerous serious stories, read Come Back Early Today:  A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy (available on Amazon) or visit my website, which has a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.



Book Resource for Alzheimer’s Caregivers: Journey of a Lifetime

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

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. She also founded a company called Partners on the Path (

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.