Archive for August 2014

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An Excellent Resource for You – The Alzheimer’s Association Website

Monday, August 25th, 2014

The Alzheimer’s Association website is an excellent resource for caregivers. To access the caregiver resources, click on “Life with Alzheimer’s” at the top of the page and then click on “Caregiver Center.” There you’ll find several major links. To get an idea of the breadth and depth of information provided, click on each one of these and take a look at the sub-links and their sub-links.

For example, “Daily Care” has sections on Behaviors, Communication, Activities, Respite Care, Memory Loss, Personal Care and Medical Care. Click on these titles to see what is included in each. Under Personal Care you’ll find information and advice about issues such as Incontinence, Bathing, Dressing, Grooming, and Dental Care, just to name a few.

Under “Get Support” you’ll find sub-sections on Finding Your Local Chapter, Message Boards, Support Groups, Your Health, and Care Training. There are Message Boards for Caregivers, Spouses’ or Partners’ Caregivers and Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias. The section on Support Groups includes information on how to find one locally. There are also online Support Groups operated by the Association.

If you click on “Planning for the Future” you’ll see topics such as Legal Matters, Care Options, Pay for Care, Safety, Dementia and Driving, as well as detailed explanations of Medicare, Medicare Part D, Medicaid, Insurance, and other related issues.

The section for “Kids and Teens” is especially helpful for families having young people affected by the Alzheimer’s disease of a grandparent or other close elderly person. It includes introductory information, videos, an explanation of how Alzheimer’s affects the brain, and stories for different age groups.

There is also an impressive list of 101 activities kids and teens can do with a person who has Alzheimer’s. In addition, there are resources for parents, including advice on how to talk to children and teens about Alzheimer’s disease. Finally there is a link to purchase Maria Shriver’s book, “What’s Happening to Grandpa?”

The Community Resource Finder section can help you find local resources, including your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter, various types of facilities, geriatric care managers, day care programs, elder law attorneys, home care professionals, support groups, hospices and transportation.

The Other Side of the Coin: When Lack of Inhibition Is a Wondrous Thing

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Lack of inhibition is a trait of many people living with Alzheimer’s. It can lead to unwanted behaviors, as I discussed in my previous article on the topic. However, as with many things to do with Alzheimer’s, there is the other side of the coin. In my personal experience, lack of inhibition can be just as positive and beautiful as it can be negative.

Here are some wonderful examples of lack of inhibition from Ed.

Although before developing dementia Ed was rather reserved when it came to expressing physical affection, when he had dementia, he changed. For example he usually held the hands of his visitors – even the men – often all the way through their visit.

He also displayed physical affection to other residents – also including the men. One day a few weeks after Ed moved to the Center, I arrived to find him sitting on the sofa beside a resident named John. I was surprised to notice they were holding hands.

When I entered the room they smiled broadly and took turns telling me they were best friends and they moreover, they had been best friends for years. It was very touching.

Another example occurred one day when I was visiting and all of a sudden Angel, who I thought was the most beautiful aide in the entire place, came in just to ask him if he needed anything.

He said he didn’t but patted the empty space next to him on the sofa, inviting her to sit down. She did and the three of us engaged in pleasant conversation. After a while, Ed reached up and began to gently stroke her golden hair. She smiled and put her arm around his shoulder. It was a lovely and natural gesture that warmed my heart.

Does anyone else have any positive stories about their loved one’s lack of inhibition?

 

When Lack of Inhibition Leads to Negative Behaviors

Monday, August 11th, 2014

According to an article published on Caring.com, “as dementia slowly robs self-awareness, the person becomes less inhibited, losing both the memory of how he or she once behaved as well as a sense of social norms. It’s as if an internal filter on what’s polite behavior or not is turned off.”

What Happens: Loss of inhibition is not uncommon in people living with dementia. Some of the classic resulting behaviors, listed on an article entitled, “Symptom Guide,” published on the Dementia Guide website, are: Makes comments that are mean or hurtful, Curses and uses foul language, Makes sexually suggestive comments or advances, Lacks modesty (e.g., changes in front of people, urinates in public), Tells jokes that are offensive.

What to Do About It: The Caring.com article lists several suggestions as to what you can do about negative behaviors resulting from a reduction in inhibition. These include, among others:

  • Know that some behaviors aren’t what they look like. People with dementia who are losing language skills often express themselves with actions. For example, someone who unzips his pants may need to use the restroom. A person who disrobes may be hot. Someone who hurls a stream of foul language may feel stressed.
  • Notice what else is going on when a behavior occurs; something about the environment may be triggering a reaction in the form of this inappropriate behavior. Pay attention to the noise level, who’s present, the time of day, whether the person has eaten or used the bathroom. Jot down this information if an odd behavior happens more than once.
  • Ignore these behaviors where possible. Reacting to them — especially with outrage or disapproval — may only egg on or upset the person.
  • React with calm reassurance. The person may be acting out because he or she feels uncomfortable, insecure, or overwhelmed by noise (such as in a public place).

People With Alzheimer’s May Yearn to Be Touched

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Research has consistently shown that touch can be beneficial to people living with Alzheimer’s. For example, scientists at UCLA studied the physiologic effect of touch. They concluded that touch can dampen symptoms of the disease. Specifically, they found that it decreases stress, increases the relaxation response and decreases anxiety.

An article by D. L. Wood and M. Diamond, published in the journal, Biological Research Nursing, discusses a study in which subjects with Alzheimer’s received treatment with therapeutic touch for five to seven minutes twice a day for three days. There was a significant decrease in overall agitated behavior and in two specific behaviors – vocalization and pacing or walking – during treatment and 11 days of a post-treatment period.

Another article, by Rand L. Griffin and Evelyn Vitro, published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, presented results of an observational study conducted at the Alzheimer’s Resource Center of Connecticut.

The study found that “following treatments of therapeutic touch, patients demonstrated visible signs of well-being and relaxation – often leading to sleep. Staff also found therapeutic touch a way to positively forge emotional connections with patients who are verbally uncommunicative and who suffer from varying degrees of dementia.”

So if you aren’t regularly expressing affection by touching your loved one with Alzheimer’s, try it the next time you are with him or her. You may be pleasantly surprised at the response you get.

 

 

 

Worried About Your Loved One’s Memory? Here’s When to Take Them to the Doctor

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Let’s take a look at the most-often cited list of ten signs of Alzheimer’s disease, presented in a PDF on the website of the Alzheimer’s Association:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

While we all experience some of these symptoms from time to time, this PDF is particularly helpful for several reasons. For each symptom it gives examples. It also explains what could be considered a “normal” sign of aging for each of the 10 items. Finally, it has space to write in examples of an individual’s specific symptoms to take to the doctor.

Look closely at the PDF and you’ll notice a couple of things. First is that the severity and frequency of a given symptom is important. For example, if a person is an accountant and becomes completely unable to balance the checkbook this may be reason for concern. But occasionally making an error while working on the checkbook is probably not something you should worry about.

The second thing is that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s typically disrupt daily life while signs of normal aging usually do not.

I would suggest two circumstances that might lead you to take your loved one to a doctor. First, if they are experiencing the type of memory issues indicated above as possible signs of Alzheimer’s, it would be a good idea to write examples down on the Alzheimer’s Association PDF and take it to a neurologist or family physician.

Second, even if they aren’t having such memory problems but either you or they are still overly worried about memory issues, it might be worth a trip to the doctor if for no reason other than to put your mind at ease.