Caregiver’s Corner — Let’s Get Involved

September 19, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Every year close friends of mine participate in the NOCC (National Ovarian Cancer Coalition) Walk that raises funds and awareness for ovarian cancer.  I have had the opportunity to participate for two years.  I did so willingly and felt great about supporting my friend and her family.  Yet, I also felt a little twinge of guilt.

As I walked and visited the vendors, I kept thinking, “I should be doing something for Alzheimer’s disease.”  That’s the disease that crept in and stole my mother from me.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  Ovarian cancer is a horrible disease and there are many other diseases that deserve our attention, but Alzheimer’s disease has impacted my family and me deeply and personally.  So, that’s why I find it interesting that I don’t support activities that are directly related to battling the monster, Alzheimer’s disease.  The disease that was such a major force in my life.  I haven’t been a caregiver for two and a half years now, but when I hear of a diagnosis or recognize those familiar signs in someone, my stomach gets all knotted up.

Maybe that’s it.  Maybe it’s still too close.  But, emotional or not, it’s time to raise awareness and funds to beat this horrible disease.  The statistics are staggering.  Today, there are 5 million people living (and dying) with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.  By 2050, that number is projected to reach 16 million.  Something must be done, and quickly.

The Alzheimer’s Association sponsors the Memory Walk. It takes place in cities across America, usually during the early fall.  There are several ways to participate:

* You can start a team or join one.

* You can walk as an individual.

Even if you can’t walk you can still support the Memory walk.

* You can volunteer and help in a number of ways

* You can tell others about the walk and encourage them to participate

* You can encourage and financially support a walker or team that is already established
You can give a general donation

* You can do a virtual walk if there is no walk in your area

With all of these ways to help, I am ashamed that I have not participated in the push to research, fund and ultimately eradicate this horrible disease.

So, join me as I make a conscious effort to get involved in raising awareness and funds for the battle against Alzheimer’s disease.

I’m Loretta Spivey and I approve this message

Caregiver’s Corner–Lighten Up!

June 20, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

When I was in the throws of my caregiving responsibilities, or should I say, when I was thrown into caregiving, either way….I loved being around people who made me smile and there was nothing better than a good, full out belly laugh. They were few and far between, but they were so much appreciated. has debunked the old addage that it takes 33 muscles to frown and 13 to smile. I’ve heard the saying with various numbers and physiologically, it may not be true, but one thing is for sure. It definitely feels better (and is better for your health) to smile and think positively than it is to walk around blue and depressed.

Even though you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. I encourage you to smile. To lighten up. To look for the good as you go throughout your day and to realize that although, you may be tired and things may be tough, there is always someone who is worse off than you are.

Consider This:

  • Nearly 3 billion people in the world live on less than $2.00 per day
  • Close to half of all people in developing countries suffering at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits.

Today, I just want to encourage you along the way. Smile. Send a note to someone who may be as stressed as you are. Say a kind word or send anonymous flowers to someone.

Hopefully, these jokes will make you smile:

Three Elderly Men

Three elderly men are talking about their aches, pains and bodily functions. The seventy-year old man says, “I have this problem. I wake up every morning at seven and it takes me twenty minutes to tinkle.”The eighty-year old man says, “My case is worse. I get up at eight and I sit there and grunt and groan for half an hour before I finally have a BM.”

The ninety-year old says, “At seven I pee like a horse, at eight I flop like a cow.”

“So what’s your problem?” ask the others.

“I don’t wake up until nine.”

Pet Names

An elderly gent was invited to his old friends` home for dinner one evening. He was impressed by the way his buddy preceded every request to his wife with endearing terms calling her Honey, My Love, Darling, Sweetheart, Pumpkin, etc. The couple had been married almost 70 years, and it seemed they were still very much in love.

While the wife was off in the kitchen, the man leaned over and said to his buddy, “I think it`s wonderful that, after all the years you`ve been married, you still call your wife those loving pet names.”

The old man hung his head. “I have to tell you the truth,” he said.”I forgot her name about ten years ago.”

Jokes compliments of I got a great laugh reading and selecting them. I hope you did too.


Loretta Spivey (aka AlzWriter)

Caregiver’s Corner-Join a Support Group

May 30, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

I know, you don’t have time to breathe, much less find and join a support group. You are so busy providing care, running errands, taking care of the rest of your family and being an all around Saint to do anything except keep your head barely above water with your current responsibilities as you battle Alzheimer’s disease.

But before you count the idea of joining a support group out completely, consider the following excerpted from AARP’s Caring for the Caregiver (click her for entire article):

“Caregivers stand at particular risk for a host of mental and physical illnesses, many of which have roots in stress, exhaustion, and self-neglect—symptoms some medical professionals have begun calling caregiver syndrome.”

“Caregivers appear more likely than noncaregivers to get infectious diseases, plus they are slower to heal from wounds, says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., director of the Division of Health Psychology at Ohio State University in Columbus. Kiecolt-Glaser has conducted several caregiver research studies with her husband, immunologist Ronald Glaser, Ph.D.”

“Caregivers also have greatly elevated blood levels of a chemical that is linked to chronic inflammation. And that puts them at increased risk for heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. Notably, says Kiecolt-Glaser, those levels are still high three years after caregiving duties end, especially among caregivers over 65. What’s more, the studies found a greatly increased risk for anxiety and depression.”

Exhausted, anxious, and pressed for time, caregivers, she says, “tend to lose their networks and separate from their friends.”

So, you don’t have to take my word for it, Kiecolt-Glaser, is one of many researchers noting that caregivers need support. Not just help with the daily activities of life. Although, that’s a great place to start.

Caregivers need emotional support as well. The good news is that there is help. Here are just a few places you can go for some help.

The Alzheimer’s Association. I can’t say enough good things about this organization. Yes, it’s huge, but its also very personal. They have a 27/7 helpline. They can help with everything from housing options to what to do about wandering. Here’s the number, I encourage you to use it and get connected with a local chapter. 1-800-272-3900. You can also find the Alzheimer’s Association at

I promise you, the support group won’t be comprised of a bunch of people sitting around complaining. Rather, you will find that they are much like you. Tired, struggling and trying to provide the best care possible for their loved ones. You’ll realize that you are not alone and that there are people who understand and can relate to your situation.

Another option is getting on-line support. Blogs like this one are great places to get information, vent and be part of a community. Here are a few other online resources.

WebMD Alzheimer’s support group has a forum/support network for Alzheimer’s disease

So, friend, I encourage you. Get some support as you do this difficult, but important work.

So, what do YOU think? Are you a part of a formal or informal support network?

Caregiver’s Corner – How Hospice Helps Caregivers

May 16, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Today is Friday, the day that I dedicate to the amazing people who fall are caregivers.

You are true warriors. You battle the elements to get your loved ones to doctor’s appointments, You battle your grief as you go about providing care while you are tired, frustrated and wondering how you’ll be able to make it. You battle Alzheimer’s disease daily. Sometimes you get a thank you and sometimes you don’t. But you always keep on going.

After a few days of talking about hospice, I’ll wrap up the week by telling you how hospice can help you as a caregiver. You may be tempted to skip over this because your loved one is not anywhere near the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. However, I encourage you to read on because the more informed you are, the easier it will be to make a decision when the time comes.

Just by way of review – Hospice is a special concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments. Most people are not aware that hospice care is a benefit of Medicare Part A. Some hospice workers refer to it as “Medicare’s best kept secret.” Please see my post entitled Medicare Made Simple for more information about Medicare.

Here’s how hospice can help you as a caregiver:

Hospice can help you to be the best caregiver possible during a very difficult time. According to, Hospice can teach you to:

  1. Communicate effectively with your loved one
  2. Support your loved one’s spiritual concerns
  3. Help resolve unfinished business
  4. Work with health professionals
  5. Work and communicate with family and friends
  6. Take care of your own needs

In addition:

  • Hospice can provide you with a myriad of readings and affirmations from various faith traditions to share with your loved one
  • Hospice can teach you and help you to say goodbye
  • Hospice can help you to understand the process of death. They can help you to understand what is happening physically to your loved one. It’s difficult to watch our loved ones die, but it is important to know in advance what is happening.
  • Hospice can also help you with a companion or volunteer for your loved one if you have to be away from home to run errands, etc. for a period of time or need a break and don’t want you leave your loved one alone.

So friend, I encourage you to seriously consider allowing the wonderful employees and volunteers of hospice to help you as you care for your loved one. Remember that you are no good to your loved one if you are trying to play martyr or superman (or woman). Your loved one needs you informed, rested and ready.

In the end, in addition to providing care for your loved one, the hospice team can help YOU to be the best caregiver you can be.

Things Caregivers Do to Hurt Themselves and Their Loved Ones

May 9, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Refuse to ask for help–Caregivers tend to get frustrated that other family members and close friends are not chipping in as they should.  Instead of reaching out, they often adopt the attitued, “if I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself.”  This is not good for anyone, the caregiver, the family or the one who needs the care.

Play martyr–Martyrdom is noble and had, maybe even still has its place in society.  However, your loved one needs you alive not sacrificing your own health and overall well being, in order to give care.

Grieve alone–Caregivers are people who get things done.  Taking time to share their feelings with others is rarely on the top of the “to do” list.  However, it is very important to not only allow yourself to feel your feelings, but also to share them in a safe and non-judgemental environment.

Fail to nurture relationships–Caregiving is consuming at times, and caregivers tend to become so wraped up in the job at hand that they don’t take the time to feed and nurture relationships with other family members and good friends.

Ignore spouse/significant others–I made a distinction because those who are closest to caregivers may suffer the most.   It’s hard to think about working to keep the flames of marriage going when you are concerned about your loved one 24/7.  Yet, nurturing a relationship on one hand may give you a moment of peace on another to help you as you battle Alzheimer’s disease.

Act reactively instead of proactively–It is so important to know what’s coming in terms of the disease.  Not just to know, but to know and understand how those stages will impact your level of care. Please see my series of posts on the Stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The role of the caregiver changes significantly as the illness progresses.

Fail to plan–I’ve said it before, “If yo fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”  Alzheimer’s care facility, standard long term care facility, in home care provided by family and friends, in home care supplemented by an agency, these are all options that should be carefully considered and not at the last minute when waiting lists and ease of admission may come to bear more heavily on the decision than they should.

Take life too seriouslyCaregiving is very serious (and sometimes depressing) business.  But, it takes much more energy to frown than it does to smile.  So, laugh, read something funny or watch something funny.  You are still alive and you can ENJOY life.

What do you think? What did you do wrong? What’s your blunder?  Maybe you got something right. Tell us about it, leave a comment

Caregiver’s Corner–Drink to Your Health

April 5, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 70% of the 5.2 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease live at home where family and friends take care of them.  So, you are in good company, there are literally millions of caregivers across the United States of America taking care of loved ones in various stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

As you know, caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is demanding, both physically and emotionally.  I say it almost every Friday, you are no good to your loved one if you are sick, burned out and exhausted.  So do yourself and your loved one a favor- take care of YOU. 

Today, I’ll tell you about three categories of drinks that will nourish your body and your spirit.

Water-I know, its sounds kind of boring, but your body is 75% water.  All of your body’s systems need water in order to work properly.  There are many schools of thought regarding proper water intake, but I’ll go with the Institute of Medicine which says that men should drink about 13 glasses and women about 9 glasses each day.  I’ll list just a few reasons you should drink at least 8-9 glasses of water each day. 

  • Water helps to regulate body temperature.
  • Water moistens mouth, eye and nose tissue.
  • Water lubricates joints.
  • Water lessens the burden on kidneys and liver by flushing out impurities.
  • Water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells.
  • Water helps to prevent constipation.

Juice-I am talking about the real thing, not the ones laden with artificial sweeteners and colors. I mean, the kind you buy or preferably make fresh.  Yes, its a little time consuming, but YOU are worth it.  Check out the benefits of fresh juice.  Fresh juice is the liquid from a fruit or vegetable devoid of all of the fiber.  The liquid gets into your blood stream quickly, takes little energy for your body to digest and provides you with the benefits of the food you have juiced.  You’ll need a juicer to make your own and you can get an electric one for as little as $59 or as much as $400.  It just depends on how often you plan to use it, how easily you want to be able to clean it and how much you are willing to lose in waste.

Smoothies-My personal favorite, are excellent sources of whole food nutrition.  Just remember that the finished product is only as healthy as the individual ingredients you add to it.  So, if you add ice cream, butter finger pieces and sugar laden chocolate milk, it might be pleasing to your taste buds, but it won’t do much for your tummy (except to help it expand).

The advantage of healthy smoothies made with fruits and veggies over juice is that you get the fiber, which is important to colon health. 

Two of my favorite recipes:

Morning Glory Juice (I use a cheapie manual citrus juicer for this one)

1 large grapefruit

2-3 medium oranges OR 5-6 small tangerines

Manually juice the fruit, pour into glass, mix and try to drink slowly and ENJOY. (the drink slowly part never works for me)

NOTE:  If your fruit isn’t that sweet, add a bit of honey or agave nectar to sweeten to your liking. 

Almond Banana Smoothie (adapted from The Smoothies Bible by Pat Crocker)

Place all ingredients in blender and blend till smooth

1 Cup plain soy milk or almond milk (both can be purchased in the healthy section of your grocery store.)

¼ cup raw chopped almonds

2 ripe bananas peeled and cut into about 4-5 pieces each (you can peel, cut and freeze bananas for a thicker, frostier smoothie)

1 tsp vanilla or you can use vanilla flavored milk

Pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg to your taste (optional)

Your action assignment today is to increase your water intake and try either the fresh squeezed juice or a smoothie.

I can’t wait to hear how you feel.  I always feel more energized and less stressed when I get in my water and start my day with fresh juice or a smoothie.

So, drink your water, have some fresh juice or make a smoothie and drink to your health!

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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.