Posts Tagged ‘elderly’

Advice from Leeza Gibbons, TV Personality and Caregiver: “Breathe, Believe, and Receive”

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Breathe: Start by taking 10 purposeful breaths; breathing in sheer certainty that you are doing your best. Breathe out all the negativity that weighs heavily on you. This can change your physical and emotional state so you can better cope with your caregiver stress.

Believe: Now is the time to be an optimist. Know that your efforts will be enough. Believe that you can get empowered by others who have achieved this before you.

Receive: Everyone has limits. Know that real strength comes from knowing when to ask for help. When someone says, “Do you need anything?” say “yes,” and be prepared to tell them a specific way they could help.

Source: This is a shortened version of interview with Leeza on CNN, April 26, 2011.

Note: After Leeza Gibbons’ grandmother and mother died of Alzheimer’s disease, she decided to help other family members caring for their loved ones with the disease. She created Leeza’s Place, a group of facilities  for Alzheimer’s caregivers. She also wrote an outstanding book for caregivers entitled Take Your Oxygen First – available on

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.

How I Survived 7 Years as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

How did I cope as a caregiver?  I had no idea how to survive the following years, but little by little I discovered things that helped tremendously:

1.    I Had an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Coach

The Greater Cincinnati Alzheimer’s Association Chapter had a free online coaching service for Alzheimer’s caregivers. I emailed my coach every single day and she responded with thoughtful, empathic emails back to me. It was the first thing I did every morning when I got up, and I looked forward to her answers throughout the day. We developed a close relationship that was extremely helpful to me.

2.    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 air the negative ones.

3.    I Learned How to Get Along With Ed Better

As Ed’s dementia progressed he became extremely difficult to get along with. I was at the end of my rope when I invited a friend to have lunch and discuss the problem. She told me three things she said would help:

–       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.

4.    I Took up a Hobby (Photography) About Which I Became Passionate

I became obsessed with my new hobby. I felt compelled to take photos. I would spend hours working on a single photograph. I The best thing about my new hobby was that time stood still when I was doing “a shoot.” It took my mind completely off Ed and his condition.

5.    I Made Peace With Alzheimer’s

One day I realized a profound change had taken place in my heart. I began enjoying my visits to Ed again. I became aware that I had accepted his condition and I had found a way to relate to him. A way that was satisfying for both of us.

Just seeing him smile and hearing him laugh had become more than enough to make up for losing our previous relationship. Our love had endured even despite Alzheimer’s

Getting Your Loved One to Stop Driving Before It’s Too Late

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Clear Signs that the Patient Should Stop Driving:  The Alzheimer’s Association ( lists five primary ones:

  1. Forgetting how to locate familiar places
  2. Failing to observe traffic signs
  3. Making slow or poor decisions in traffic
  4. Driving at an inappropriate speed
  5. Becoming angry of confused while driving

Tips for Getting the Person to Stop Driving:  

  1. Try to calmly convince the patient to stop driving of his/her own free will.
  2. Have their primary care provider or attorney talk to them. If they respect that person enough they may voluntarily agree to stop driving.
  3. Have another family member or friend they respect talk to them. Sometimes patients will pay more attention to someone other than the primary caregiver.
  4. Take away the car keys.
  5. Mechanically disable the car.
  6. Park the car around the corner or elsewhere out of their site. If they are demented enough they may forget they even own a car.
  7. Report them to the state Department (or Bureau) of Motor Vehicles, which in most states will make them take a driving test. If they fail, their license will be revoked. Note: Some states require physicians to report all diagnoses of dementia to the Department of Motor Vehicles
  8. As a last resort, you can sell the car if there are no other family members who need to use it.

Getting your loved one with Alzheimer’s to stop driving will not be a simple task, but remember – it’s your responsibility to get him or her out from behind the wheel before someone gets hurt.





Alzheimer’s Patients and Planning for the Holidays

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Holidays can be stressful for both the person with Alzheimer’s and the rest of the family. Consider these tips to help make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

1. If you’re caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s at home:

Tone down your decorations: Blinking lights and large decorative displays can cause disorientation.

Host quiet, slow-paced gatherings: Music, conversation and meal preparation all add to the noise and stimulation of an event. Yet for a person who has Alzheimer’s, a calm, quiet environment usually is best.

2. If your loved one lives in a nursing home or other facility:

Celebrate in the most familiar setting: For many people who have Alzheimer’s, a change of environment — even a visit home — causes anxiety. Consider holding a family celebration at the facility.

Minimize visitor traffic: Arrange for a few people to drop in on different days to avoid the commotion of having several visitors all at once.

Schedule visits at your loved one’s best time of day: Your loved one may appreciate morning and lunchtime visitors more than those in the afternoon or evening.

Shortened from:



“Silly Saturdays” Story: Bring Me Vodka!

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Alzheimer’s is a deadly serious topic, but sometimes laughter is the best medicine. So I’m posting  a humorous story weekly, giving us a chance to smile in the midst of our somber life situation. Please send me your own “silly” stories and I’ll post them, too.

As I was walking with Ed to the front door of the Alois Center on my way out the third day he lived there he sweetly said, “Kitty, please. Bring me two bottles of Popov tomorrow.”

“Kitty, I can’t,” I said. “You’re not allowed to have vodka here.”

“What do you mean, I’m not allowed vodka to have?” he asked incredulously. He stopped walking and stared at me. “This is America! I’m allowed anything I want to have!”

“I’m sorry, Ed,” I said. “I can’t bring you any. That’s the rule here.”

He became upset and told me, “Fine. I will find someone else to get it for me.”

I had no idea how he’d find anyone to buy it for him, but despite his dementia he tricked me into helping.

A few hours later he called and cheerfully asked me the address of “this place where I am ‘leev-ing.’” I was pleased. I thought it was a good sign that he wanted to be oriented and know where he was.

I told him the address and he repeated it one letter and number at a time, leading me to think he was writing it down, which I also thought was a good thing.

The minute I hung up I got it.

Oh, shit! He’s going to call his driver to take him to Kroger’s to buy vodka.

I dialed his driver’s cell as fast as my fingers would move and explained the situation. The driver, Mr. Ellington, promised to tell Ed his cab had broken down and it would take him a few days to get there.

I must admit, however, I was pleased Ed was still alert enough to try this ruse. I checked with Mr. Ellington later that evening and laughed out loud when I found out Ed had indeed called him!

Silly Saturdays Guest Post by Carole Larkin: “I’m a Lot Younger than These Old People around Here!”

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

For a little walk on the light side of Alzhiemer’s, I’m posting amusing stories about dementia patients every Saturday. Here’s this week’s story by Carole Larkin:



Pretty early on my mom’s frontal lobe was impacted and she lost the filter we all have that prevents us from saying what we are thinking. When she was at the assisted living community in Dallas and I’d visit her (2-3 times a week), every time she would introduce me to her friends as if  this was the first time they were meeting me. Some of her friends were not cognitively impaired, so they and I played along.  She would tell them all my name, that I was
born on Christmas day (which was true!) and how old I was. It was always in that order; it never varied.

Early on I had tried to have my mother  just tell people that I was her daughter, and that I was born on Christmas day, but to leave off how old I was. She readily agreed, but when I was introduced she automatically went on to tell them all three things. Realizing that I was stuck  with the telling of my age to all the people she knew, and all the people she didn’t know in the world, I had to say something to get her off the subject of my age.

I came up with, “but Mom, I’m still really young!”

Mom would look at me with surprise and say “No you’re not”.

Then I’d say, “Well I am when I hang around with 80 and 90 year olds!”

Then all of us would laugh. That was our routine.

Then one day, after I finished saying “Well I am when I hang around with 80 and 90 year olds!” Mom said, “Me too. I’m a lot younger than all these old people around here!”

She was 84 at the time. I laughed and laughed at that comment. And eventually she and all her friends were laughing with me. That was a great memory I’ll always carry of my mom.

Carole Larkin  MAG, CMC, CAEd, QDCS, EICS is a geriatric care manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. Her company, ThirdAge Services LLC, serves the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. She can be reached at 214-649-1392 or




“Silly Saturdays:” I’m an American!

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Alzheimer’s is a deadly serious topic, but sometimes laughter is the best medicine. So I’ll make a “Silly Saturdays” post weekly with some amusing story about Ed, giving us a chance to smile in the midst of our somber life situation. Please send me your own “silly” stories and I’ll post them, too.

Ed was in many ways a ‘typical dementia patient,’ experiencing periods of lucidity interspersed among long stretches of dementia. Yet at the same time, he had always been inimitably eccentric, and his dementia hadn’t changed that.

Whenever Ed wanted his way he shouted, “I’m in America! I can do (or have or say) anything I want!”  He used that phrase when he wanted the facility to turn the parlor lights brighter rather than lower in the late evenings, when he wanted to eat in the middle of the night, when he wanted to be served Stouffers frozen dinners, and, of course, early on when he wanted his vodka.

And he turned the phrase around to avoid doing anything he didn’t want to do.  He would say things like, “I don’t have to
get out of bed today. I’m in America!” Or he would declare, “This is America! I don’t have to get a haircut!”  He sometimes firmly stated, “I’m an American! I don’t have to get dressed today.”

Above all, he was happy to be in America because he thought the American government was paying his bill for the Alois Center. I just let him continue thinking that!

Reader Review: Come Back Early Today as a Book for Caregivers

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

When I wrote Come Back Early Today, I wrote it mainly as a love story. However, most people who have reviewed the book have focused on its value to caregivers. The following review illustrates that point.

This book is a must read for caregivers of dementia patients! It provides great insight into the difficult path that Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers must face, and it is intertwined with a beautiful love story. It made me laugh and it made me cry, all at the same time! I watched my mother descend into a similar journey with dementia, and I wish my family and I had read it while she was alive. It gave me a deeper understanding of my feelings, and the frustrations that my mother faced daily, as her mind simply deteriorated, seemingly before our eyes. It also put my mind at ease, in some
ways. I realized that, although these patients fret and worry a great deal, they are also capable of feeling joy. Marie Marley found a way to celebrate the joys of life, at any level of coherence, and capitalize on those moments. She found a way to improve the quality of her loved one’s life through those moments.

This book is informative and very supportive for caregivers. It put things in a new perspective for me. It still makes me sad to think of all the patients, caregivers and families who must cope with this cruel disease. It is difficult to watch the mind of our loved ones deteriorate, no matter how you look at it. But I feel more at peace after reading this book. I realize that many of the struggles we face as caregiver’s of patients with Alzheimer’s are OUR struggles. The patient truly lives moment to moment. I can’t recommend this book enough.