Posts Tagged ‘Caregiving’

Breaking the News When It’s Alzheimer’s

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

 Why Informing Others Is Important: When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it is usually very difficult to decide whether or not to make the diagnosis public, but there are many advantages to doing so. One is that it will help others be more understanding and compassionate with the diagnosed person. In addition, revealing the diagnosis gives friends and family members an opportunity to participate in planning for the future. Perhaps one of the most important reasons to go public is that it enables the patient and the caregiver to receive understanding and emotional support.

How to Let People Know: First, decide who will announce the news – the person who was just diagnosed, a family member, or close friend. The announcement may be made at a family meeting or you may want to inform people individually. Sometimes sending out a letter can be helpful because it gives people time to digest the news before talking with you about it. This avoids putting them on the spot.

Special Issues to Consider When Informing a Teenager or Child: Be especially thoughtful when informing young people about the illness. It’s important to be honest with them about the situation. With younger children you need to use simple language they can understand. Tell them the basic facts but don’t give more information than you feel they can handle.

If You Decide to Keep It Confidential: You have the right, of course, to keep the diagnosis confidential, but realize this can sometimes lead to stress for everyone involved. It prevents both the patient and the caregiver from getting much-needed support from friends and family members.

3 Things Alzheimer’s Caregivers Should Never Do

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Don’t Be in Denial

When a loved one shows signs of dementia it’s painful to acknowledge it. It’s common for their friends and loved ones to be in denial. It’s easy to ignore the symptoms, make excuses for the person, or push the symptoms to the back of your mind.

The problem with denial is it doesn’t lead you to take your loved one to a primary care physician or neurologist for a complete workup. And the problem with that is that sometimes dementia is caused by health issues other than Alzheimer’s. Some of those problems can be treated or even reversed.

Don’t Ask “Do You Remember?”

Asking a person with Alzheimer’s if they remember something is a common mistake that’s easy to make. It’s almost as though we think we can jog their memory. But we rarely do. They have probably forgotten the event in question. That’s what people with Alzheimer’s do. They forget. So it’s better to say, “I remember when . . . ” and then tell them a story.

Don’t Argue With or Contradict the Person         

You can never win an argument with people who have dementia. They will stick to their guns to the bitter end! It’s much better to agree with them and then change the subject. This can prevent a nasty argument that would spoil your time with your loved one.

10 More Tips for Visiting People With Alzheimer’s

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Here are 10 more tips for visiting people with Alzheimer’s:

  1. Make eye contact
  2. Only ask one question at a time
  3. Talk about the old days more than recent information
  4. Do not correct or argue with the person
  5. Use their name frequently while talking
  6. Don’t visit if you find they already have a visitor; wait until that person leaves
  7. Don’t even bring up topics that might upset them
  8. Arrange for a musician to provide live music
  9. Watch old movies with them
  10. Ask open-ended questions


10 Tips for Visiting a Person With Alzheimer’s

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Introduction: Many people simply don’t know how to interact with or entertain people who have Alzheimer’s. The following tips will help you improve the quality of your visits. With a little thought and visiting experience you may come up with more tips yourself. In my next post I’ll publish 10 more tips.

  1. Speak Slowly and in Short Sentences
  2. Don’t Ask Them if They Remember Something
  3. Keep Visiting Even Though They May Not Remember Who You Are
  4. If the Person Starts Getting Agitated, Stop What You’re Doing and Change the Activity or Subject
  5. Take a Pet or Child to Visit Them
  6. Take Art Supplies and Have Them Draw or Paint
  7. Play a CD of Music for the Person
  8. Take Them a Small Wrapped Gift
  9. Play Simple Games With Them
  10. Look at Old Photographs Together

Writing Poetry With a Person Who Has Alzheimer’s

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

I volunteer to visit some ladies with Alzheimer’s at a local memory care facility. One of “My Ladies” is Ruth. One day when I was visiting Ruth I got the idea of writing some poems together. I decided we’d write happy poems. I decided to simply start off by saying what I thought would be a first good line for an amusing poem, then raise my right arm toward her and look at her expectantly as though to say, “You say the next line.”

This worked extremely well. We typically alternated lines – I’d say a line, then she followed with the next. What surprised me was that in most cases she immediately spouted off a line that not only logically followed mine, but also rhymed with it.

Our first one was about the birds and the bees. Here it is:

The Birds and Bees

The birds and the bees

Crawl on their knees and

Do as they please.

They don’t have flees –

Those birds and bees.

Seeing how happy Ruth was to actively participate in writing the poems I decided we’d keep doing it.

People With Alzheimer’s Can Be Stumped by the Simplest Things

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Ed and Marie - 2007People with Alzheimer’s may have great difficulty figuring out the simplest activities. The following story illustrates that poignantly.

One day at the end of my visit to Ed, he accompanied me to the front door. When we reached the door we went through our usual leave-taking, saying good-bye repeatedly and blowing kisses to each other.

“What should I do now?” he asked plaintively.

“Do whatever you want,” I answered as I waited for the door’s 30-second delay to pass.

“I don’t know what to want,” he said.

I was blindsided by his remark. He seemed so lost.

“Well, why don’t you just sit in this nice chair here for a while?”

He sat down obediently.

“How long should I sit here, Marie?”

“Sit however long you want,” I said, turning from the door and walking back toward him.

“Marie, I don’t know how long,” he said, looking forlorn.

“Okay,” I said. “You sit here thirty minutes.”

“Thank you, Marie. I will sit here for thirty minutes. What should I do then?”

He looked at me as though I had the answer to all of life’s critical questions, including that one. My heart sank as I realized he now needed specific instructions for what to do every moment.

“Sit here in this chair for a half hour,” I said, kneeling in front of him. “Then go to your room. When you get there, get ready for bed. I will visit you again tomorrow.”

 As though he could remember all these instructions.

 “Oh, Marie,” he said, “Thank you for your guidance. It really means so much to me.”

And with that we blew each other kisses again and I left. I was completely overwhelmed by his further descent into dementia. This formerly brilliant lawyer and professor could no longer even decide how long to sit on a chair.


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.