Caregivers deserve to have fun, too – here’s how

December 21, 2010 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S, Featured, HEALTHCARE

It is a sad fact but while people are partying and celebrating during the holiday season, some people are especially put under stress at this time of the year that can lead to burn out and depression. They are the caregivers. Especially affected are the caregivers of the terminal ill, the disabled and those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. And the sad thing is, most caregivers do not even realize the difficult condition they are in. They take it for granted that they have to perform their duty day in and day out. In the process, they are taken for granted.

According to radio talk show host Leeza Gibbons (source: USA Today):

“Most caregivers don’t even realize the kind of pressure they’re under. They often end up with life-limiting conditions as a result of the relentless stress.”

Gibbons experienced this first hand as she witnessed her mother slowly deteriorated with Alzheimer’s. Her family became dysfunctional as they watched their loved one slowly but surely fade away. But their sad story was what inspired them after their journey to set up Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and Leeza’s Place, a community gathering place that provides support for caregivers.

The magazine GRAND gives 8 tips for caregivers on how to make their holidays less stressful and even enjoyable. These tips were written by Dr. James Huysman, Executive Director of Leeza’s Place.

  1. Give yourself a wellness gift. Give yourself a health and wellness gift.  Get a checkup, an assessment for anxiety or depression, and/or a health screening. Find a therapist. Join a support group. Take care of your own personal health. It is the first step toward reducing the stress and strain of the season ahead.
  2. Ask for help and make sure you are open to accept it. Asking friends and families for help may be the hardest thing we face. As caregivers, we are way too quick to accept the role of hero, martyr or savior. Too often we have a “go it alone policy” and believe that we must take care of everything ourselves.
  3. Find a friend or make a friendship even richer.  Having a friend to provide conversation, support and assistance or for any holiday activity is a wonderful therapeutic approach to the holidays. Sometimes a friend is all we need: a safe sounding board so we can get some stress out. Sometimes a friend might even offer respite that can lift your spirits and make the season more enjoyable.
  4. Learn how not to take things personally. Sometimes when families get together we are “on our last nerve.” Make sure we realize that the people around us have their dramas and traumas too and their words, though hurtful, may have nothing to do with us. Sometimes the words may come from a person with stressful challenges of their own.
  5. Identify a supportive community of friends, families or spiritual gatherings. Many caregivers are concerned they are seen as a burden and are often reluctant to come out and be connected to the world around them. Sometimes they feel no one cares. By finding a community outside the family, caregivers know they exist in a community of loving people who want to help because they care.  
  6. Plan your family’s activities with thought throughout the season. Roles and responsibilities are extremely important to explain to all involved. Ongoing family conferences throughout the holidays help maintain the boundaries necessary to the caregiving process so that no one feels out of control or inadequate. This is vital and should be done in person and as frequently as needed. Holiday family conferences are like tune-ups used to maintain the family car. This car needs to drive well, efficiently and for a long time. Schedule these conversations regularly before the wheels fall off.
  7. Keep a gratitude list in a holiday journal filled with wonderful affirmations.  That is a mouthful for sure and no doubt as a caregiver you will take this item by item or as a personal project throughout the season. Any one of these exercises can shift your focus away from darkness and worry and help empower a caregiver to create a focus on gratefulness – and hopefully begin to see the large amount of abundance that there already is in being alive. This process will begin to inspire new avenues of thought throughout the holiday season.
  8. Find humor everywhere you go. “Laughter Is the Best Medicine.” This is an old expression popularized by Norman Cousin’s book “Anatomy of an Illness,” in which he describes his battle with cancer and how he “laughed” his way to recovery. Laughter is a great tension-releaser, pain reducer, breathing improver, and general elevator of moods. Humor is so very valuable and a great elixir to get us through difficult or stressful times. Try to see the humor in being a caregiver during the holiday season. Start now. “How do you tell a caregiver from anyone else? It is the person who jumps off a cliff and someone else’s life passes before their eyes. . .  Okay, not so funny. Make sure you find your own laughter to keep smiling in your own life. Your energy for others during the holiday season will only happen when you energize and empower your own life force today.

When people are having a melancholic Christmas

December 15, 2010 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION, STRESS

‘Tis the season to be jolly but not everybody is celebrating/has something to celebrate this Christmas. There are many reasons why people are melancholic rather than merry this Christmas. Let us look at the possible scenarios and see how we can help people in these situations.

Loss of a loved one. Loss of a loved person so close to the holiday season is hard. For a little child, the loss of a parent or sibling around Christmas is very sad situation. For a parent, losing a little child is a big blow. How we can help:

  • You can show sensitivity and understanding by downplaying your own Christmas cheerfulness when your bereaved friends are around.
  • You can provide distraction – a dog or a cat or a house pet to take care of, even if only temporarily.
  • You can let your bereaved friend take care of you – let them feel they are needed.

Health issues. There is nothing like health problems to dampen the holiday spirits. This is hard enough for adults, but much more for a child who is stuck in a hospital bed while his or her friends go Christmas caroling. How we can cheer them up:

  • Visit, call, visit. My husband’s grandma, who is 90 years old, broke her leg from a fall the other week and had to stay at the hospital. She lives in another country 260 km away, but we visited her on that first weekend after her admission, braving the snowy road conditions. Boy, was she happy to see us, chuckling at my husband’s joke that her ice hockey career for this season at least is over. We called almost every day afterwards even after she was transferred to a rehabilitation clinic, where she will stay till after New Year.
  • Donate. Donate time and money to cheer up the sick during the holiday season. I know somebody who runs a Toys for Tots fund drive every Christmas for a public hospital in Manila, Philippines. It is not only the kids but also other hospital patients who need cheering up during the holidays. The elderly, with no family to visit them, are especially lonely during this season of cheer.

Stress and responsibilities. It is not only the patients who need cheering up this season. Their caregivers need our help as well. Let us face it: taking care of the sick is a big burden both physically and emotionally. Here is what we can do to help them:

  • Time off. Giving caregivers time off even if only for a few hours is the best gift you can give them. A whole free day without responsibilities would be a special treat.
  • Moral support. Luckily, there are groups providing support for caregivers the whole year but more so during the holiday season. Some caregiver support programs can be found at:

the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and Leeza’s Place,

Stand Together for AD: Strength and Support for Alzheimer’s at www.alzheimersdisease.com/.

I’ll be bringing you some more tips on caregiving in the coming days.

Why Get Organized?

June 2, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Have you ever wanted everything around you to stop for a period of time, say a day, week month or longer, just so that you could get a handle on all that you have to do?

Wouldn’t that be the best thing? I mean, we could catch up on everything from giving some attention to the junk drawer to the weighter matters like making that eye doctor’s appointment, calling the adult day care center to see if it’s a fit for your loved one or rallying some family and friends to give you some much needed help. Maybe we could take the time to consider the future beyond dinner tonight and tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment.

Unfortunately, time keeps going and we seem to get further and further behind. AND new things keep coming up. So, what’s an already stretched to the hilt caregiver to do?

Get organized. The very thought of it gives me a headache. Yet, I know that it is very important. Being organized would help as you battle Alzheimer’s disease. Check out the following stats from McMillan and Company Professional Organizers and the National Association of Professional Organizers:

The average American spends one year of his life looking for lost or misplaced items at home and in the office. US News and World Report

According to the American Demographic Society, Americans waste more than 9 million hours each day looking for lost and misplaced articles.

For every hour of planning, 3-4 hours are saved from redundancy, waiting for information, not being prepared and poorly managed tasks.

About 80% of the clutter in your home or office is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.

Cleaning professionals say that getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of the housework in an average home.

Given the above stats, we have good reason to get organized. We’d have less housework (my personal favorite) and more time because we wouldn’t lose precious time looking for things.

Now, as caregivers, the issue sometimes causes us to see double. I remember when my mom was caring for her aunt who eventually moved in with us. Auntie got rid of her furniture, but the rest of the “stuff” found its way to our home, which, by the way, already had plenty of “stuff.” There is also the issue of helping someone who may be moving into your home or into a care facility to de-clutter and pare down.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about specific ways to get organized. Yes, it takes some time, but in the end it SAVES time and frustration. In the meantime, share your tips. Are you organized? What are your space and time saving ideas?

Share your photos! I’m looking for pictures of caregivers and/or your loved ones. Send the photo and a short (1-3 line bio about the people in the photo).

See you tomorrow with some time and space saving tips!

A Recipe For Life

May 15, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Well, it’s that time again. Time for A Recipe For Life. My goal, as always, is to provide you with delicious recipes that are healthy, inexpensive and simple. It used to be that the healthy part was the challenge, but today, it’s definitely challenging to find recipes that are healthy, simple, delicious AND inexpensive. Today’s recipe definitely meets the criteria. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.

Battling Alzheimer’s disease is difficult enough, so I hope that these recipes help to lighten your load a little.

I found this recipe in a book called The Hallelujah Diet by George Malkmus. However, it is attributed to a cook book called Everyday Wholesome Eating by Kim Wilson.

Recipe For Life

Chili

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. Olive oil
3-4 small to medium onions
1 bell pepper (color of your choice), diced
2 cups corn (frozen or canned works)
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. oregano
5 cans (7 cups) beans, lightly drained: Kidney, cannellini or black beans will work well
2 tsp. cumin
pinch cayenne
1-1/2 tsp. sea salt
28 ounce can tomatoes

Instructions:

Saute’ onions and garlic in olive oil, add seasonings, then tomatoes and beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 20 minutes (I simmer for about 40 minutes or a little longer to allow the flavors to meld together). Stir occasionally.

Serving suggestion:

Delicious with tortilla chips (we use Trader Joe’s flax seed chips. I know, sounds crazy, but they are really good and packed with fiber). Also works great with rice.

Also delicious with cornbread (see recipe below) and a salad

Recipe for Life

Kickin’ Sweet Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
3/4 cup milk (I use soy)
1/4 cup oil (light olive oil, corn or canola oils all work fine)
1/2 cup PURE maple syrup (You can substitute 1/4 cup sugar if you don’t have pure maple syrup available)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit (232 Celcius)

Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish (I use a spray like Pam or equivalent)

Mix all ingredients well and pour into prepared baking dish

Bake at 450 degrees Farenheit for 25-30 minutes

Enjoy with the chili above and a salad!

The beauty of these recipes is that they really are EASY. Using canned beans eliminates the soaking and long cooking time.

In addition beans are packed with fiber and protein. According to the Idaho Bean Commission:

  • Each half-cup serving of dry beans provides six to seven grams of protein, meets at least 10% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein, yet costs about 20 cents per serving.
  • A single half-cup serving of cooked dry beans counts as one, one-ounce serving of lean meat in the USDA Food Pyramid Meat and Beans group, and as a full serving of vegetables in the Vegetables group.
  • The quality and digestibility of beans can be improved by consuming them with cereal grains. Beans are a rich source in lysine, but a poor source of methionine. Cereal grains are a poor source of lysine, but high in methionine and other sulfur amino acids. When beans and grains are served together in dishes like beans and rice, or tortillas and refried beans, they provide a complimentary protein profile.

Here’s a list of the Recipes for Life so far. Try one today!

Smoothies

Blueberry Muffins

Lentils and Rice

Three Potato Crock Pot Soup

Caregivers Corner-Keep a Journal

April 25, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

From the time I was about 9 or 10 years old, my mother encouraged me to keep a journal (well, she called it a diary).  Although I always enjoyed writing, I never understood why she bugged me so much to write my thoughts.  I figured maybe she wanted to read it when I wasn’t around.  Or maybe, she recognized my desire and ability to write before I did.  She surely never realized that the practice would help me to cope with caring for her as we, together, battled Alzheimer’s disease.

As a caregiver, you have a lot going on in your heart and head and journaling is a great way to relieve stress.

Journaling also provides you with a reminder of what’s going on from day to day.  You don’t necessarily want it to become a calendar, but my to do list often starts as a brain dump in my journal and then makes it to my calendar or at least a sheet of paper as a list for the day.

Your journal won’t judge you.  Your feelings are so complicated.  Your journal isn’t going to look at you funny when you secretely wonder how much longer you can keep up caregiving.  Your journal isn’t going to tell you you are a bad son or daughter when you start to consider a long term care facility and your journal isn’t going to say your lazy when you  express that you are tired of cleaning up the bathroom or changing adult diapers or being accused of stealing money.

Finally, caregivers are often isolated and have few opportunities to share thier thoughts and feelings.  Journaling is a great way to express your feelings.  It may even help you to problem solve.  As you write, some solutions may become apparent.

I have listed just a few benefits of keeping a journal. Click on this link to see 100 reasons you should keep a journal.

Towards the end of each year, I spend time in the bookstore selecting a journal for the upcoming year.  Now, it’s really not that big of a deal.  I just happen to enjoy writing my thoughts and ideas in a nicely covered and bound book, with lined pages.  Usually, it runs me in the neighborood of $15-$20. However, any paper will do.  The key is to select something that works for YOU. 

Lines or no lines?  Some people like lines, some don’t. I used to loathe lines, they stiffeled my creativity when I was in that mode.  However, when I got to seriously putting down of my thoughts, I found that I desperately needed lines.

You may also consider using the computer. I do that, even now, when I have a lot going on in my head becasue I can type much faster than I can write.

Does Size Matter?  To me it does.  I like a journal that is smaller than 8 x 11, but larger than 5 x 7.  Not sure why, it just works for me.  But I know people who use legal pads and I know peopole who use very small notebooks, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Binding.  This is important.  Spiral type binding works well becasue pages are easily accessible, but the pages tear from the spiral part after some use.  For me, it’s just important that the book lays flat when opened. Other than that, it doesn’t really matter.

In the final analysis, it matters not if you pay for a nice “official” journal or use recycled paper from the office. What matters, is that you write, write, write.

Start now!  What do you think? Do you keep a journal?  Do you think it would be beneficial to you?  Leave a comment, let us know.

How Alzheimer’s Caregivers Grieve

April 8, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

  I talked with a friend yesterday. She could relate to the paradox of caregiver grief.  Being sad, on one hand, as she watches the disease slowly takes her mother away and on the other hand, being grateful that she still has her mother and is able to connect with her, from time to time. The conversation reminded me that caregiving and grief tend to go hand in hand; because caregiving usually causes a role-reversal, or at best a shift in previously established roles.  Yesterday, I talked about the fact that caregivers begin greiving while their loved ones are still alive. Today, I’ll talk about HOW caregivers grieve.

You have probably heard of Elizabeth Kubler Ross.  Regarding end of life issues, she was the uncontested expert.  She started out studying those who were diagnosed with terminal illnesses and she looked at the ups, downs, phases and stages they experienced.  Eventually, she discovered that those who have lost a loved one experience the same stages.  It is now widely accepted that the stages of grief that she described are applicable to grief associated with a myriad of losses.  With that foundation, let’s look specifically at caregiver grief that begins prior to the death of person receiving care

The word stage is a bit of a misnomer, in that it implies that you neatly move from one to the next and then to the end.  That is NOT the case with grief, rather you move in and out and back and forth through the stages. It’s not neat or clear cut, but at least you can put a label on what you, as a caregiver are experiencing, as you grieve while your loved one still lives.

Denial-“I can’t believe this is happening!”  You just cannot wrap your reality around the fact that your loved one is losing the battle against the monster, Alzheimer’s disease.  A part of you believes and holds on to the fact that, “we’ve had hard times before, everything will be just fine.”

Anger-this is when you come to the harsh reality that everything is not fine and you don’t like it at all.  I remember I wanted to punch someone.  I wanted someone to pay for and explain this horrible thing that was happening. Your anger can be directed at the affected person, your spouse or children, other family members, anyone in your path or even God Himself.

Bargaining-You know you are trying to strike up a bargain when you are willing to put your elderly and frail loved one through a barrage of uncomfortable tests or into a clinical study that clearly won’t provide relief; or when you scour the internet and medical journals searching for new treatments and go to specialist after specialist looking for the “cure.”

Depression-Now you get it.  Your reality is that your loved one is very sick and is going to ultimately lose the battle against Alzheimer’s disease.  As a caregiver you may get physically ill yourself, you may cry a lot, seemingly for no reason.  You may socially and spiritually isolate yourself and pull away from friends, family and your faith for a while.

Acceptance-I’d love to have a conversation with Mrs. Kubler Ross on this one. I mean, acceptance has a bit of a positive ring to it.  We accept the illness and the impending death because we don’t have a choice, not because it’s an Emmy award that we have long coveted.  At any rate, our minds and breaking hearts eventually come to grips with the fact that, “there is a time to die.”

Again, the paradox here is that you are going through all of these stages while you go about the business of caregiving.  While your loved one is alive and with you; it feels strange and wrong, but in truth, its right.  Grief, at its core is about acknowledging a loss and even though your loved one is still alive, the relationship is changing and you are losing your loved one.  Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are your heart’s response to the losses you are experiencing.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the grieving Alzheimer’s patient.

Stages 3 and 4 Alzheimer’s Disease-Caregiver Response

March 31, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Last week I talked about how to know if it’s Alzheimer’s disease and I ended the segment on Thursday with a discussion about stages one and two.  I promised that, for this week, I’d finish up the stages.

I thought it would be most helpful for you if I not only describe the stages, but also provide some information as to how, you as a caregiver, might prepare and respond in a particular stage. After all, as a caregiver, you want to know what is coming and how to deal with it.

Let’s just review quickly.  You can click on the link, Stages of Alzheimer’s-Caregiver’s Response to get more complete information.  But for now, you may remember that Stage one is really not a stage of Alzheimer’s, but rather a stage when no symptoms are present. Stage two there is very mild decline that may not be noticeable, except by the most astute observer.

For today, let’s talk about Stages three and four:

Stage 3-This is the stage where memory issues become much more obvious.  Even the friends and family members begin to notice changes.  The person may find it difficult to remember names, especially of people he or she hasn’t known for a long time.  If your loved one is still working or is involved in social activities like card playing, etc. associates may begin to notice that performance on the job or mental acuity in social settings is slipping.  You may also notice that planning or organizing tasks become more difficult.  Balancing the checkbook or following a recipe may take longer than before and may cause frustration.  Medical evaluation may or may not be able to confirm with a  high percentage of accuracy if the person has Alzheimer’s disease at this juncture.

Stage 4-I mentioned in an earlier post that although there are seven individual stages, the disease is also broken into larger categories.  This stage falls into the mild or early stage Alzheimer’s disease category.  It is characterized by obvious memory loss regarding current events and personal information, such as address, phone number and names of close family members.  By this stage, it’s tough for the affected person to plan a dinner party, pay bills, balance checkbook and keep tabs on person al finances. At this point, decline is obvious enough that friends and family members are sure that something is awry. Often, the disease can be diagnosed with a fairly high level of surety by this point.

Caregiver Response-At this stage in the game, as a caregiver, you need to swing into action.  If your loved one has not yet been evaluated; then make a doctor’s appointment and get that done right away.  You should also consider who will become the primary caregiver(s).  Getting Power of Attorney is very important so that you or someone is able to make important decisions on behalf of your loved one. Be sure to include health care responsibilities as well.  You will also want to have conversations with your loved one about taking over the finances, paying bills, etc.  Depending on the amount of assets your loved one has, you’ll want to see an elder law attorney to see how best to proceed to protect the assets of your loved one.  If your loved one will be on Medicare then you’ll need to complete the paperwork to get that process started.  In short, this is the time you will put systems in place to help you as the disease progresses.  Most of all though, try to understand how scary this is for your family member.  They have been living with the signs and not fully understanding what is happening for a long time now. Let them know that you will be there to help and support in any way you can. Allow them to express frustration and don’t take it personally.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss stages five and six.

Caregiver’s Corner – Get Some Exercise

March 28, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

If you are like most caregivers who are battling Alzheimer’s disease, you are so tired that the very thought of driving to a gym, waking early to exercise, or taking time to put in an exercise tape stresses you and makes you feel even more tired and burned out.  But I promise you this – if you exercise 30 to 60 minutes per day, especially if you can manage to get outside and catch some fresh air and sunshine, you will feel much less stressed and more energized.

Exercise has numerous benefits, here are three:

Exercise improves mental sharpness, in part, due to the increased oxygen to the brain.  Some studies have even shown that those who exercise have sharper minds, faster reaction time and better memory than those who don’t exercise.

Exercise reduces stress-not that you have stress as a caregiver, but on the outside chance that you do, exercise will really help.  I recall feeling as if my head was going to explode.  I wanted to punch, kick, and scream simultaneously.  A brisk walk always helped me to put things in perspective and burn off some of that negative energy.

Exercise increases energy-I know you are tired, very tired.  Exercise will help you to feel energized. Yes, you get tired after a good aerobic workout, but it’s a “good tired.”

You know the benefits, here’s how to squeeze it in to your already hectic life

Make exercise a priority!  You are no good to your loved one if you are tired, sluggish and empty.

Take small steps.  Instead of circling the mall or grocery store parking lot for the closest space, intentionally park further away and w-a-l-k.

Make exercise a priority!  Tell your friends and family members of your desire AND plan to exercise.  Ask them to hold you accountable and check in on your progress from time to time.

Ask for help.  Your job is often 24/7.  Ask for some help so that you can get out, breathe some fresh air, and get your heart rate up a little.

Make exercise a priority!  Take the stairs instead of the elevator

Walking is certainly the least expensive and most convenient exercise, but if it doesn’t appeal to you consider the following:

Swimming – It’s easy on the joints, and provides an awesome head to toe workout.

Organized Class – Aerobics, water aerobics, dance, kickboxing and martial arts all will give you a great aerobic workout and help you to relieve tons of stress.

No matter what you do, GET MOVINGMake exercise a priority!  Find something you enjoy and get out and exercise.  The benefits far outweigh the costs in time and money!

Caregiver’s Corner–Get HELP

March 21, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

While college students plan their parties and high school students consider their weekend options; while your coworkers give thought to what movie they’ll see this weekend and family members consider how they might celebrate Easter, your plans remain the same. 

Whether you have dinner with family, attend a religious service or plan to stay home, one thing is constant.  You are a caregiver.

And there is at least one characteristic that is common among almost all caregivers, we are stressed and we need HELP.  You will rarely find a caregiver who says, “I’m all set, I have all the help and support I need.  My family readily chips in and I get a break whenever I need it.”

So, let me give you some practical suggestions as to how to get some much needed help:

ASK–I know that your brother should know that you take care of mom all week and that you need a break on the weekends.  But he didn’t renew his subscription to “Mind Reader Today,” so his skills have gotten a bit rusty.  Besides, you make it look easy and you seem to have everything under control.  So let him know that you need some help. 

BE SPECIFIC–“I could use some help you know” is not a request.  It’s a statement yelled in anger, frustration or desperation.  Or, it’s  breathed under your breath, either way, it still does not express what you really need. Try these specific requests and see how they work out:

  • John, would you sit with mother on Saturday morning from 9 to 1?
  • Mary, would you please prepare lunch for mom on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays?
  • Mike, would you be willing to give mom dinner on Tuesday evenings?
  • Linda, I know your schedule is tight. We are all stretched.  If I give you advance notice, would you handle taking mom to the doctor (or wherever)?

GET MOM OUT OF THE HOUSE–This one depends on what stage of Alzheimer’s you are dealing with.  Senior centers and Adult Day Care programs are excellent options.  They provide:

Opportunities for your loved one to socialize

Skill appropriate activities

Opportunity to get exercise 

A much needed break for YOU

In addition, many provide transportation to and from the center as well.

YOU GET OUT OF THE HOUSEConsider paid help.  I have only one older brother.  At the time I was caring for my mom, we did not live in the same state.  So, I was pretty much on my own 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It was a formula for disaster and depression.  Eventually, I hired someone to come in and help out.  On occasion, my husband or a church member would hold the fort down while I took a quick breather.

It was during my caregiving days that I buried superwoman along with her big red “S,” blue spandex and red cape flying in the wind.  I suggest you have a ceremony right now, let the superman/woman thing go. It’s a great cartoon, but doesn’t work in real life.

If you want to serve your loved one well and for the long haul, learn to ask for help and take care of YOU. 

Assignment–Get some HELP!

Battling Diabetes In Children

January 17, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

What Is Type I Diabetes?

Type I Diabetes is a disease that affects people at any age, any time. It is also known as Juvenile Diabetes because it is most often seen in children and young adults (teens). The pancreas halts production of insulin, the hormone that aids glucose to enter cells. When glucose (sugar) enters cells, it use then used to create energy. Insulin also allows other internal organs such as the liver, to store glucose to be used for energy at a later time. Without insulin, the body is unable to use glucose properly, resulting in many health problems.

One very serious problem that can occur is a condition known as Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). When the body does not manufacture insulin and glucose(sugar) levels g climb too high, a chemical imbalance develops in the blood. Cells are not receiving the glucose they need to produce energy and the body begins to break fat down to try and compensate. This action allows the release of ketones into the bloodstream. With the release of ketones, the body is at risk for serious damage, even death if not treated immediately.
Source: Web MD.

The Signs of Type I Diabetes.

* Thirst – Children are often thirsty, but when a child suddenly becomes thirsty and drinks much more than they normally would, it is time to take a close look at what is going on.

* Frequent urination.

* Weight loss without dieting or added exercise.

* In some cases, the child or adult will become hungrier than normal.

Each symptom on its own does not signify Type 1 Diabetes. But, added together these signs are a good indication that Type 1 Diabetes may be the culprit. Since the symptoms can take time to develop, often the parent may assume the child has a ‘bug’ or the flu. The symptoms can resemble the flu and treatment is often delayed long enough to cause Diabetic ketoacidosis. How can you tell if you or your child is suffering from DKA?

Do you or they exhibit the following symptoms?

* Flushed, hot, and dry skin.
* Loss of appetite.
* Stomach pain.
* Emesis (vomiting)
* A very strong, fruity odor of the breath.
* Rapid respiration
* Over sleepy, hard to wake.
* Confusion.

If so, seek medical help right away. Only a doctor can tell you if you or your child is suffering from Type 1 Diabetes. The doctor will order a blood test to measure the glucose (sugar) levels in the bloodstream.

How Type I is Treated.

The routine treatment for Type 1 Diabetes focuses on keeping the blood glucose levels near the level of those for a normal, healthy person without diabetes. Parents of children with diabetes will need to check the glucose levels of their child often and give the medication prescribed by their child’s doctor. When children age, eventually they become responsible enough to take their glucose readings and inject their insulin on their own. Care should be taken to allow the child to watch as the parent fills the syringe with insulin each time an injection is needed. Children are naturally curios and as they watch their parents, their understanding of their own medication will grow. A chart on a door or side of the fridge is a wonderful way to keep track of your child’s insulin levels. Use large blocks to indicate the days of the week and break each day into three sections. Draw a face: happy/sad, or use stickers to indicate ‘good’ levels or ‘bad’ levels. Make the treatment as interesting as possible for your child. Try to keep a strong, happy face to your child, their acceptance and understanding of their condition relies on their parents attitudes. The Children’s Diabetes Foundation of Denver offers some interesting books for children and their parents on Battling Diabetes.
Books: CDFD Book Link.

Healthy Diet Is Key.

Most children with Type 1 Diabetes can enjoy a normal diet. It is imperative to teach children to take care of their bodies, so a good, balanced diet will benefit any and every child. Children with diabetes can in some cases still have foods containing sugar, but as with any food, moderation is important. If your child cannot tolerate much sugar without having a threatening jump in glucose levels, do not treat sugar as a villain. Labeling a food as ‘bad’ will only make it more tempting as they grow. An example of this is that I made this mistake with my oldest child. She was allowed one very small candy item a day, nothing more. I was military strict and when she went to visit her aunt in a different state, every dime she had taken with her was spent on sugary snacks. Sugar had been treated as an enemy, not as something we could live with or without. Forbidden items have temptation value.
Source: eHealth MD, Do Diabetic Children Need Special Foods?

Wound Care Is Essential.

All diabetics, Type I and Type II have issues with wounds being slow to heal. Each and every time you dress or undress your small child, check their body for wounds. Even a small scratch can become infected. Older children should be taught to self check their bodies for wounds and have the tools to care for them on hand. A good first aid kit should be in every medicine cabinet. Another in your car or purse will come in very handy. Children are great at getting scrapes and bruises, diabetic children are certainly no exception.

Let Your Child Play.

If you are a parent of a diabetic child, you know how hard it is to let go. The constant worry, wondering if your child is ok, if she has taken her insulin, does the school know how to handle diabetes, and just having her out of your site in general can be a nightmare. The stress can be nearly intolerable. But, you cannot hold on forever. Holding too tight can frighten your child and cause them to become withdrawn or in some cases, too much of a daredevil. Learn to give enough freedom to your child and if you are too frightened, remember, that you are only working for your child’s best interest. She will need to learn to look out for herself eventually, hold her back will not teach her to care for herself properly.

If your child does go to visit a friend or go to a playground alone, be sure to give her a fanny pack with medication and directions on how to use it properly. The fanny pack can hold a simple ‘survival’ kit. Hard candy or glucose tablets, insulin inhaler with a small icepack, a snack, and a small first aid kit. The first aid kit should have a few bandages, antibiotic cream, and gauze pads with antiseptic wash.
Sources:
Caring for Diabetic Children in the Classroom
Children With Diabetes Online Community
Children’s DiabetesFoundation at Denver

For more information, visit blogs of others who have diabetes or parent children with the disease.

* Six Until Me A Post To Parents
* Juvenile Diabetes Blog, By A Teen With Diabetes
* Living With Juvenile Diabetes Symptoms, By The Mother of Two Children With the Disease.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.