Posts Tagged ‘Caregiver’

15 Tips for Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Friday, December 19th, 2014
  1. Become an educated caregiver: Some useful sites for educating yourself are the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Reading Room. Also, attend any caregiving seminars presented in your community.
  2. Ask for help – and accept it: Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Getting help can make a major difference in your life.
  3. Take care of yourself: Try to eat well, exercise regularly and visit your doctor when needed.
  4. Give yourself credit – not guilt: Make a list of all the things you are doing correctly and look at it frequently.
  5. Consult a geriatric care manager: Geriatric care managers are specialists who help families care for elderly relatives. They can provide valuable information and resources you will need to help you through these difficult times.
  6. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association for help: The Alzheimer’s Association ( has a 24/7 help line. Just call 1-800-272-3900.
  7. Contact the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America for help: This organization ( has a help line operated between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. Call 1-866-232-8484.
  8. Study and put into practice “The Caregiver’s Bill of Rights:” You can find this document here.
  9. See a psychotherapist: If your stress level is very high or if you are feeling depressed, a therapist might be able to help you.
  10. Consult with your spiritual leader: If you are a religious person your spiritual leader might also be able to help you.
  11. Join a support group: Support groups can be helpful for Alzheimer’s caregivers, even if you just listen in.
  12. See a family therapist if there is conflict in your family: If there is a lot of conflict among family members consider seeing a family therapist.
  13. Keep a journal: Writing about your experiences and feelings every day can also be therapeutic.
  14. Learn how to get along better with your loved one: Here are three quick tips: Don’t contradict or argue with them, Don’t bring up subjects that might upset them, and if they do get upset quickly change the subject. Following these tips will lead to a better relationship.
  15. Take up a hobby about which you become passionate. It’s important to have time to yourself. Find a hobby you love. It can make a big difference.

NOTE: A few of these tips are based on ones presented by the Alzheimer’s Association.

A Resource for You: Journey of a Lifetime

Friday, December 12th, 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.


5 Problems Associated With Caring for a Mid- to Late-Stage Patient at Home

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Many people would rather die than place their loved one in an institution. But such placement may actually be the best solution for the person. Although your loved one may have previously stated their adamant opposition to going to a nursing home, many mid- to advanced-stage Alzheimer’s patients will soon forget they were even moved.

Please consider the problems stated below before making your decision:

  1. You’re not an expert at realizing when the person has a significant health problem and may need to see a doctor. Nurses in facilities are trained to recognize physical health problems, and there is a physician assigned to each facility who can immediately initiate treatment.
  1. You simply can’t provide the amount of socialization that a long-term care facility can. People with Alzheimer’s need to be around other people for socialization. Patients living in a facility have the opportunity to interact with staff and other patients on a daily basis.
  1. You can’t provide the frequency and quality of activities a facility can. Nursing homes have specially trained activity directors who devote 100% of their time to providing meaningful activities for residents.
  1. You are not an expert at communicating and interacting with the person. People with Alzheimer’s may exhibit difficult behaviors. Most personnel in facilities receive training for dealing with these.
  1. Placement Will Almost Certainly Be the Best Solution for You and Thus for the Patient. Although you are probably staunchly dedicated to caring for the person at home, providing 24/7 care is exhausting. And you simply can’t provide the best care if you’re burned out all the time.




Need Advice This Very Minute? 2 Helplines You Can Call

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Here are two helplines you can call to get instant advice. (Please note, however, that you should call 911 for emergencies.)

The Alzheimer’s Association Hotline: 1-800-272-3900

Staff can answer questions, help you process your feelings, assist in problem solving and, when needed, link you to resources at your local Alzheimer’s Association. The Association stresses that you can call as often as needed.

The helpline serves people with memory loss, their family caregivers, health care professionals and the general public.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website ( for further details.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Helpline: 1-866-232-8484

You can connect with this organization’s Master’s-level licensed social workers by calling the helpline. You can also connect by Skype, live chat or email. See the organization’s website ( for instructions on how to access each feature.

The team is available 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. At other times you can leave a voice message or send an email and a social worker will respond as soon as possible. No question is too small; no concern is too insignificant.

Like the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America assists people with memory loss themselves, their family caregivers, professional caregivers and the general public.

So the next time you need professional advice, call one of these respected helplines. You’ll be relieved you did.

The Critical Question All Alzheimer’s Caregivers Should Ask Themselves

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Sometimes we suffer more than the person with Alzheimer’s. That’s because, in part, people with Alzheimer’s disease typically live mostly in the present.

That’s one of the less dreadful things about this disease. People with dementia typically quickly forget unpleasant things that happen to them and upset them terribly.

But caregivers don’t easily and quickly forget painful things that happen to their loved one. They suffer because they think their loved one is still distressed.

Here’s the critical question all Alzheimer’s caregivers should ask themselves when they are upset about something related to their loved one:

 “Is the issue bothering my loved one?”

 If not, that’s what’s important. We shouldn’t let it bother us either.

An example was when Ed was moved to another room in the nursing home where he was living.

When I arrived to visit him a few hours after the move, he kept saying over and over in a plaintive tone to voice, “I want to go home.”

He made this mournful request to every single person who passed by. I was distressed because Ed was suffering.

Much to my surprise, however, when I arrived to visit the next day he had forgotten all about it. He didn’t once ask to go home.

He was functioning as though he hadn’t been moved at all. Nonetheless that urgent plea reverberated in my mind and caused me great emotional pain for days afterward.

Again, I was the one who was suffering – not he.


Sometimes We Suffer More Than the Person With Alzheimer’s

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Once Ed was moved to a new room at his nursing home. I went out to visit him to see how he was adjusting.

 “I want to go home,” Ed kept repeating plaintively to me and everyone who passed by.

I felt faint and terribly guilty. I felt as though I’d ripped him away from everything that had become familiar to him. From what he’d come to accept as his ‘home.’

The instant I woke up the next morning I heard Ed’s melancholy voice in my head, repeating over and over, “I want to go home.”

Then I went out to visit Ed again.

“How’s he doing today?” I asked the aide, expecting the worst.

“Oh, he’s fine,” she said with a little laugh. “He stopped asking to go home.”

“He what?” I asked, stupefied.

“Yeah. He’s already forgotten he was moved and he’s settled into his new room as though nothing’s changed.

I stopped in my tracks and let her statements sink in.

“I guess that may be one of the benefits of dementia. You quickly forget painful things that happen to you,” I said, mostly to myself.

This just goes to show that sometimes we suffer more than the person with Alzheimer’s.



Life After Alzheimer’s

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Here’s my story of life after Alzheimer’s.

Two weeks after Ed died, I was offered the dream job I’d interviewed for in Kansas City. My new life was tremendously challenging and took my mind off my loss as much as anything could.

When I arrived in Kansas City and moved into the house I’d rented, I hung two photos of Ed over my dresser. Both bring me comfort when they catch my eye as I’m crossing the room.

As time went by I started several activities that gave new meaning to my life. First I wrote a book. Later I began blogging about Alzheimer’s caregiving on the Huffington Post and the Alzheimer’s Reading Room.

Next I began visiting ladies with Alzheimer’s in a local memory care facility. I enjoy my visits and I receive so much more than I give.

I still miss Ed sometimes. I wish he could see my lovely new home and know about my new job. I wish I could hear him say, “Marvelous, Marie! Superb! What a wonderful new house and job.” I guess I’ll just have to settle for feeling it in my heart.

3 Tips for Surviving Alzheimer’s Caregiving

Friday, November 7th, 2014

I want to share with you the events and situations that helped me cope, hoping they may help you as well.

  1. I Kept a Journal

I chronicled my visits to Ed, his gradual decline, my feelings, and my day to day activities. It gave me a way to document my caregiving journey and to remember the positive events as well as the negative ones.

  1. I Learned How to Get Along With Ed Better

As Ed’s dementia progressed he became extremely difficult to get along with. A social worker friend gave me 3 pieces of advice:

–       Don’t bring up topics that might upset Ed

–       If he does get upset, change the subject quickly

–       Don’t argue, correct or contradict him

When I finally mastered these tips, our arguments decreased considerably.

  1. I Took up a Hobby About Which I Became Passionate

I took up photography and developed a specialty – taking close up photos of single stem flowers against black backgrounds. The best thing about my new hobby was that time stood still when I was doing “a shoot.” This was the key to its value. It took my mind completely off Ed and his condition. It kept me from wallowing in my grief.

Overcoming Denial When a Loved One Shows Signs of Alzheimer’s

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Alzheimer’s is, above all, an insidious disease. Its symptoms often begin so mildly and progress so slowly that it’s easy for friends and loved ones to deny them until one day there’s a ‘defining incident;’ an incident so bizarre that not even the spouse, child or other loved one can ignore it or explain it away.

Yet the disease typically starts with things of little or no significance. Not being able to come up with a common word. Mixing up someone’s name. Forgetting to turn off the stove. Things we all do from time to time. But for the person just entering the fringes of Alzheimer’s these things may begin to happen more and more often.

Years may pass between the earliest occasional confusion and the ‘defining incident.’ And during those years, the person may annoy or even anger friends and family members by being late, forgetting important appointments, being short-tempered, being unable to perform routine tasks, and exhibiting a whole variety of other troublesome behaviors.

But people noticing consistent signs of confusion and forgetfulness in a loved one should not wait for the ‘defining incident.’ One early action to take is to review the Alzheimer’s Association 10 Signs of Dementia and ask yourself whether your loved one is showing one or more of them:

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

The Alzheimer’s Association web site has additional information about each of these items and explains how they differ from things ‘normal people’ do from time to time.

It’s easy to ignore these signs or fail to connect the dots, but when a loved one is showing them it’s essential to dig down deep into your soul and find the emotional strength to get a medical evaluation. No one wants to be evaluated, or have a loved one evaluated, for Alzheimer’s disease, but sometimes it has to be done – and the sooner the better.


Alzheimer’s and Humor: An Alzheimer’s Patient’s Funny Trick

Friday, October 24th, 2014

After finishing each meal at the Alois Center, Ed would always clean his spoon with a napkin, wrap it in another napkin, put it in the breast pocket of his sport coat and take it back to his room. He knew very well he shouldn’t be stealing those spoons.

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 that spoon, Ed. It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to the facility.”

“Oh, no!” he said, loudly. “I take them every day with no remorse!”

We both had a good laugh about that.

The point of this story is that some people with Alzheimer’s can be playful sometimes. Also, they may make up their own activities.