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.

The Essence of Caregiving – LOVE

October 1, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees as the old saying goes, and sometimes, as caregivers, we get so wrapped up in solving problems, putting out fires, going to doctor’s appointments and dealing with legal issues like POA, etc. that we forget the real reason we became caregivers in the first place.

Because We Love

Most of us signed on as caregivers because we love our spouses, parents, grandparents or other family members and we felt like we could care for them better than anyone else. Most of us also want to keep our loved ones out of care facilities for as long as possible. Sometimes we are just kind of thrown into caregiving and sometimes there is a clear line of when it begins. Spouses, for example, just kind of slide into caregiving, whereas children or other family members tend to make more of a conscious decision to get more involved in the lives of their loved ones. Either way, it’s a decision that is made based on love and necessity.

But somewhere along the way, somewhere between determining whether or not you need an elderlaw attorney and searching for an adult day care center. Somewhere between keeping grandpa from taking of his clothes in the mall and helping grandma to put hers on we got so wrapped up in the forest of caregiving and so stressed by the isolation and overwhelming nature of it all that we forgot the tree standing right in front of us. We forget to actively and intentionally LOVE.

LOVE Your Loved One

Yes, we continue to love our parents; and our emotional response reminds us of our love as we grieve their illness, but it gets harder and harder to express our love as the illness progresses. Their favorite gifts no longer interest them. Their favorite activities have faded from memory. Even their favorite people, ie. Grandchildren, nieces, nephews, spouses and children may or may not elicit a favorable response.

Yet, we have to remember the difficult truth that, grandma or mom or dad won’t be with us always, so even though the time spent is very different, I encourage you to hold a hand, give a hug, listen to a story (again), tell a story (for the 5th time), pull out that old record or just be there. Your loved one may not be able to articulate it, but everyone needs encouragement and you know what your mom, grandpa or grandma loved you first.

So, today, let the tasks go and just take a moment to LOVE your loved one.

Organizing Your Kitchen–Make a Menu Plan

June 18, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Your kitchen is safe, uncluttered and organized. Now, let’s turn our attention to maximizing your time and efforts so that you can actually spend less time in the kitchen and get more done in other areas.

I don’t know about you, but mealtimes can be very stressful for me. The very thought of figuring out what to make for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week drives me crazy, but only when I am not prepared.

What’s the best way to prepare? PLAN. You might think, given all of your caregiving activities, that you don’t have time to plan a menu, but nowadays, I wonder how I survived without a plan.

Advantages of meal planning:

Meal planning saves MONEY–If you purchase groceries based on a menu for the week versus just going to the store and grabbing some items, you will save money. In addition, working your plan, you can eliminate those supposedly quick trips to the grocery store. You know how it is, you run in planning to grab a couple chicken breasts and a frozen vegetable and $60.00 later, you are scratching your head at the cash register. Meal planning helps to avoid that.

Meal planning saves STRESS–If you plan your meals ahead of time, you don’t have to think every day about what to eat. You just execute your plan and if you are a wise planner, then you will work it so that you cook 3-4 meals and eat 6 or 7 times.

Meal planning saves TIME–It saves thought time and preparation time. I made a pot of penne pasta and two sauces. Last night, we had it with white sauce. Next time, we’ll have it with meatballs and red sauce.

Meal planning saves CALORIES–Most of us tend to make better choices when we plan a meal, versus eating out or just throwing something together. When you plan, you can actually be sure you are getting a balanced meal that includes fruits, veggies and whole grains, instead of just grabbing the fastest, easiest foods available.

How to plan your meals

First you have to decide your primary goal. Is it to save money, time or calories or all of the above?

If your goal is to save money, then start with the coupon section of Sunday’s paper and build your meals based upon what’s on sale.

If your goal is to save time, then start with ingredients that can be “recycled” for example, if you have beans and rice today, then another day you can have wraps using the same beans. If you do chicken breast today, then another day you can serve chicken salad. I rarely cook a meal that doesn’t have at least two “lives.”

If your goal is low calories or high nutrition, then build your meals around fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains. It really doesn’t matter which method you use. What matters, is that you PLAN. At first, it might seem time consuming, but you will quickly discover that it will save you time and money.

I generally make a chart that includes breakfast lunch and dinner for each day of the week. In the last column I list the items needed from the grocery store. You can check out an example of my sample-plan-ahead-menu.pdf

You can do this for a week or two at at time. If it seems like too much, start with dinner and build from there. Sometimes, everyone in the house can’t eat the same thing. For example, my mom, might have had a hard time negotiating a wrap, but she could eat the beans and the “fixins” without the wrap.

The bottom line is that planning your meals can save you time, money and stress as you battle Alzheimer’s disease.

Organizing Your Kitchen–

June 17, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Now, that your kitchen is safe, let’s get to the business of getting organized for maximum effectiveness.

Note: Caregivers who are responsible for meal preparation, sometimes feel as if they spend all day in the kitchen. An unorganized, cluttered kitchen can cause the calmest person to feel stress. Add in caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s disease and and a disorganized kitchen can just about make you crazy.

Step OneGet rid of items you no longer use. Donate to charity, give away to a friend or just plain toss. Whatever you do, clear as much clutter as you can prior to beginning your organization project.

Step TwoAssess your appliances and tools. This is an important step. You should toss the 10 year old melon baller that you haven’t used since your nieces wedding. The large capacity mixer that you 1) don’t have the parts for and 2) have forgotten what to do with the parts if you did have them can go. Post it on freecycle.org and watch someone snatch it up before you have a chance to change your mind. Finally, with regards to appliances and tools, the litmus test is simple. Look at the appliance or tool and ask yourself two simple questions: 1–When is the last time I used this appliance or tool? 2- -Will I realistically use this appliance or tool within the next month? If you haven’t used it or are not planning to use it then let it go.

Step ThreeConsider storage solutions and drawer organizers. A couple of years ago, I adopted the mantra for my kitchen, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” I purchased (from the dollar store) small containers for my drawers. That way, instead of just tossing small items into a “junk drawer” you can actually place them into a small basket in the drawer. Pens, markers, erasers in one container. Tape measure, ruler in another. Labels, safety pins and ….you get the point. It feels soooo good to open my former junk drawer and actually be able to locate what I’m looking for.

Food Storage–It’s not necessary to spend lots of money on canisters, etc. Just store your food, so that you can see what’s there. I use glass containers for my flours because I like to see what I have. However, glass is heavy and breakable, so I use clear plastic for cereal. Its easy to see when I need to refill or purchase and its easy for the kids to handle without spilling. Your system has to work for you.

Step FourThink Horizontal (again). Clear counter tops. I have a fairly large kitchen and lots of counter space, so I keep my appliances out. That way, I actually use them and save a step since I don’t have to pull them out and then put them away. Even if you do keep your appliances out, the counter tops should not be cluttered with items that don’t belong there.

If you have any piles on the kitchen floor, get rid of them. In terms of the top of the refrigerator, stove, cabinets, clear those spaces. You’ll be amazed at how much larger (and inviting) your kitchen looks when the horizontal spaces are clear.

Step FiveClean. The kitchen is one of the areas that requires the most cleaning as you get organized. So, use some elbow grease if necessary and get those internal (shelves) and external (floors, counter tops) horizontal spaces as clean as a whistle.

Step SixJoin me tomorrow and I’ll tell you how to organize and plan your meals, so that you can actually spend LESS time in your newly organized kitchen.

Organizing Your Kitchen-Safety First!

June 16, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

So, are you getting control of your clutter? How’s the organization coming along? Here’s what we’ve covered so far.

Why Get Organized?

General Organization 101

Caregiver Organization Books and Papers

Conquering the Clutter in Your Closets

Organizing Your Bedroom

Today, we turn our attention to the kitchen. A neat and well organized kitchen can save lots of time. Toss in some deliberate meal planning and you will gain at least an hour, if not more per week.

However, from a caregiving perspective, you want to first and foremost, make sure that the kitchen is a safe place. It is for this reason that I’ll dedicate today’s post to safety concerns.

If there is any question with regards to proper utilization of knives, scissors or small appliances like blender, mini-choppers, food processors, etc. then they should be put out of reach.

Give serious attention to the “junk drawer.” It’s an accident waiting to happen. Screwdrivers, scissors, knives and matches can cause major problems. Even seemingly innocuous items like pencils, erasers, pens and safety pins can be problematic.

Consider childproof latches on cabinets where cleaning supplies and medications are kept.

Kitchen rugs are cute, but can be a real hazard. Be sure they are non-slip. Also watch to see if your loved one’s depth of perception is off. Depending on the color or texture, your loved one may feel as if he or she has to step up or down to properly negotiate the carpet. This could result in injury due to slip or fall. At some point throw rugs may need to be thrown away.

The stove, oven, dishwasher and garbage disposal are also potentially dangerous. The stove and oven are self-explanatory. Burns can occur and damage can occur via the dishwasher if not properly used. A confused person can easily get his or her hand or something else caught in the garbage disposal.

You will have to adjust your own safety measures depending up on your loved one and where he or she is in the disease process.

Just think, “safety first” AND to be willing to err on the side of caution as you battle the monster, Alzheimer’s disease.

Conquering the Clutter in Your Closets

June 11, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

My excuse is that I need more closet space. Be it the kitchen, hallway, spare room or my bedroom, I just don’t have enough closet space. Of course, the problem with that argument is that I know people with half the space I have and somehow they manage to be much more organized than I am.

Then there is the fact that McMillan and Company Professional Organizers say that, “about 80% of clutter is due to disorganization NOT lack of space.”

De-cluttering your closets is a great place to start, that way, you can have space to put things away as you get organized. Because I’m tackling the kitchen in a separate post, I’ll stick mostly to closets in the bedroom, spare room and hallway.

First of all, it isn’t going to help to just shift items from one place to another. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit. I bit the bullet last year and got rid of all of my “fat” clothes. That gives me great incentive to watch my weight because I have no “plan B” and I sure don’t intend to actually go and purchase any larger sizes. Next, if you haven’t worn it or used it for a year or so, get rid of it. The exception would be formal wear or items used yearly, such as holiday items.

After you have tossed out several items, go through and see if there is ANYTHING else that can GO.

Now, as a caregiver you may be responsible for your loved one’s living space (if you aren’t now you probably will be at some point). This is a good time to purge. Keep the items that are comfortable and easy to get into and out of. I know of some people who put complete outfits together, so that their loved one (or caregiver) just pulls out one hanger and everything is there.

Next, make a plan. Bedroom closets, particularly have several categories of items: clothes, coats/jackets, shoes, belts, ties and purses. Some people categorize by color or by season. I am not sure it matters HOW you categorize, but it is important to get your own organizational set up. You might have to pick up some hangers, tie/belt rack or shoe organizer. Of course, you can also purchase a closet organizing system as well. Whatever your plan, make this your mantra. “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Finally, you have to maintain your area. Give your closets 15 minutes per week of “maintenance.” That (well spent time) should enable you to get anything in order that isn’t in its place, remove items that don’t belong and adjust anything that isn’t working.

Happy Organizing. I promise that clearing the clutter will help in your battle against Alzheimer’s disease.

General Organization 101

June 3, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Yesterday, we talked about why caregivers need to get organized. The primary benefits were the time to be saved because of he decreased need to search for misplaced items and time saved in cleaning home and office with less clutter.

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

If you are like me, you recognize the need for getting organized, you just can’t imagine that you have the day or d-a-y-s that it will take to get everything in order.

Time getting organized is time well spent. One hour spent getting your life in order could save you several hours later. So, let’s get at it.

General Organization Tips:

Start in an area that is really important to you. If you begin your organization in an area that you really need to be clean, it will make you feel better and probably immediately increase your productivity and overall well being. There is nothing like walking into an area that was previously cluttered and seeing it clean. That feeling will be multiplied the moment you walk in and can actually FIND something without spending 10-15 minutes or more searching.

Take baby steps. Instead of dreading that you have to spend a day cleaning your office, plan on spending 15-20 minutes each day for a week. First of all, you’ll use your time wisely because you know you will only be there for a short time. Secondly, you will be able to get a feel for what really needs to be done in the area.

Don’t be afraid to THROW things AWAY. When in doubt, toss, sell it or donate it, but let it GO. My general rule is that if I haven’t worn it or used it for a year, it’s got to go. This is a good time to select a charity and give, give, give. We are working on our basement. My goal has been to have the Vietnam Veterans of America to pick up once a week. That forces me to go through at least a few boxes or a small area to have something for them to take away. I schedule the pick-up in advance instead of waiting till I have something. That way, I am on the hook to get a few boxes ready to go.

Get Creative. Consider a yard sale, online swap site or ebay. Think about having a friend to help you for an hour and then you do the same. You get some help, some socialization and you’ve put in a little more time than you usually do. Two hands and heads are better than one.

Tomorrow…more organization tips!

What about you? How do you get organized? Do you need help getting organized? What is your biggest barrier to decreasing clutter and getting organized?

What is Hospice Care?

May 12, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

As your loved one comes to the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease, you will have to make some very difficult decisions. Over the next few days, I’m going to talk about hospice care, what it is and isn’t. The myths and misconceptions, the advantages/disadvantages of getting into hospice and explain some of the services provided under the hospice benefit. First, a definition from Hospice Foundation of America.

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. According to the Department of Health and Human Services here are some important facts about hospice care:

Hospice provides comfort and support services to people who are terminally ill. It helps them live out the time they have remaining to the fullest extent possible.

Hospice care is provided by a specially trained team that cares for the “whole person,” including his or her physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.

Hospice provides support to family members caring for a terminally ill person.

Hospice is generally given in the home.

Hospice services may include drugs, physical care, counseling, equipment, and supplies for the terminal and related condition(s).

Hospice isn’t only for people with cancer.

Hospice doesn’t shorten or prolong life.

Hospice focuses on comfort, not on curing an illness. Choosing to place your loved one in hospice care is a very personal and important decision. Although you can make the decision ahead of time, in order to receive official hospice care, a doctor will have to certify that the patient “probably” has six months or fewer to live. I personally know of people who were in hospice care for 18 months or longer. It’s not necessarily a case of, “there’s nothing else we can do.”

Rather, hospice IS the something else, the something more that can be done. It is also important to note that you can get OUT of hospice at any time if you are not happy with the service or if health improves.Yes, at its core, hospice is about the end. But its about facing the end of life surrounded with family and with honor and dignity.There are many myths and misconceptions about hospice that I’ll talk about in detail on tomorrow.

Call for Photos! We are looking for pics of caregivers and the people they care for. We’ll post one each week, so get your picture in soon!

Lessons Children and Teens Learn from Caregiving

May 6, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

 A quick search on your favorite search engine will certainly lead you to information and services for caregivers.  However, you will have to dig a little deeper to figure out how Alzheimer’s disease impacts teenagers and children who have parents, grandparents or other family members who are battling Alzheimer’s.

Children and teens tend to be resilient and creative.  Sometimes, they just need a little prompting and they can take over and figure things out.  One day, in frustration, I sat my mom and my son at the kitchen table, gave them both crayons and prayed for a moment of peace.  Well, it was one of the best days we’d had in a long time.  Mom really enjoyed coloring and my son thoroughly enjoyed helping her to select colors and decide what to draw.

Teenagers are interesting creatures.  Often, they are in their own world and seemingly oblivious to what is happening around them.  Yet, they desperately want to belong. They want to be part of something.  That’s why they often cling to their friends and their groups.  The interaction offers them a  sense of belonging.  When tough times come, they often withdraw because they are not sure what to do.  Just  a little prompting on your part can go a long way.

Children and teens can be helpful in the caregiving process.  It’s natural to want to shield them from what can be ugly  and painful at times.  However, sickness is a part of life.  You are teaching valuable life lessons by allowing them to be a part of the caregiving process.

My mom cared for several sick relatives in our home while I was growing up.  I don’t think she ever stopped to articulate these things as lessons, but here is what I learned:

  • You only have one family.  Be kind to them and support them when they are down.
  • Holding grudges is a waste of time.
  • It is a blessing and an honor to care for a dying person.
  • If you treat people well when they are alive, it makes the grief associated with losing them less complicated.
  • Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.
  • Sick people are still people.
  • Put other people first.
  • Do the right thing.
  • Encouraging children and teens to be part of the caregiving process helps them to become other-centered instead of self-centered.

The natural tendency is to protect and shield our children, yet, the lessons they learn from being appropriately exposed to hard times will teach lessons and values that will last literally a lifetime.  They may also transfer into your child’s attitude about caring for you when it is necessary.

Do you have children or teens? Are they actively involved in caregiving?  Share your experiences.

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!

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!

Incontinence Products

March 19, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

For the last couple of days, we have been talking about incontinence.  It’s not a pleasant subject, but it is definitely one that deserves attention as nearly all people affected with Alzheimer’s disease eventually become incontinent.

Today, we’ll talk about incontinence products for men and women.  You might find it helpful to read the previous posts on this subject: 

You Gotta Do What You Gotta do….Dealing With Incontinence 

 Alzheimer’s Disease and Incontinence 

These posts will give you background and courage to deal with this sometimes embarrassing and difficult issue.

Although incontinence is caused by several different factors, there are really only two types of incontinence.  Either you are dealing with urinary incontinence, the inability of a person to voluntarily control his or her bladder; or fecal incontinence, the inability of a person to voluntarily control his or her bowels; or it could be both.

Incontinence is one of the primary reasons that caregivers finally give up and place their loved ones in nursing facilities.  We’ll discuss the question of when is it time to place a loved one in a nursing facility at a later date. For now though, I want you to know that as the primary caregiver your family and loved one have entrusted you with a tremendous responsibility, and trust that you will consider all the options and make the best decision for everyone involved.

So, let’s talk about some incontinence products that will make it a little easier to keep your loved one protected.

Pads–These come in various levels of absorbency and are made for men and women.  Effective for low to moderate urinary incontinence, they are usually worn with cloth underwear and changed as necessary. 

Protective Underwear–Made for men and women, and called by various names.  They come in a wide variety of absorbencies and are basically adult disposable diapers.  They can be used in conjunction with the pads mentioned above or stand alone.

The most popular brands are Depends and Poise (both by Kimberley Clark). They can be purchased at grocery stores, pharmacies, and warehouse stores.  They can also be purchased online and from medical supply companies.  There are other brands.  It may be best to experiment to see what is most comfortable and effective.

Disposable bed pads–These pads are lightweight and can be placed on the bed to keep the sheets from getting soiled.  They come in two sizes and two levels of absorbency.  They can also be used in chairs or wherever your loved one may have an accident.

Reusable bed pads–This pad is larger and heavier than the disposable version.  It is waterproof and sturdy enough to be washed and reused several times.

Plastic Mattress Covers–These will keep the mattress from getting wet and or soiled if the above measures fail for some reason.  An inexpensive plastic shower curtain works as well.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about:

Keeping your loved one’s skin healthy, keeping your loved one clean and odor free and doing it all in a way that is safe and sanitary for you as a caregiver.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Incontinence

March 18, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Yesterday, we talked about the fact that incontinence and Alzheimer’s disease are companions.

Today, I want us to investigate incontinence a little deeper. We’ll look at types of incontinence and some differences between men and women. Hopefully, we’ll help you to be able to ask the right questions and/or figure out if your loved one’s incontinence is temporary and due to some underlying medical issue, or if it’s the incontinence brought on as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

Women are more likely than men to be incontinent. Chalk that up to pregnancy, the resulting childbirth, menopause, and the structure of the female urinary tract.

There are also several different types of incontinence. I’ll go through them quickly, just to give you an idea.

Stress–Leakage generally caused by coughing, exercising, laughing, sneezing. or some physical pressure on the internal abdominal area.

Urge–Urination begins at the same time the urge to go is felt. The bladder contracts for seemingly no reason. Can be brought on by the sound of water or even by the washing of impacted person’s hands.

Overflow–Usually caused by a physiological issue that causes the bladder to be full most of the time.

Functional–Caused by brain function issues, such as inability to carry out the steps necessary to go to to the bathroom when the urge is felt. Inability to translate the feeling into urge to use the bathroom, and/or deterioration of brain function.

A urologist or gynecologist can help to make the proper diagnosis. In the early stages, simply adjusting liquid intake or prompting affected person to use the bathroom may be helpful. You do want to rule out physiological issues if your loved one is in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Even something as simple as a urinary tract infection can cause urinary incontinence.

Now, here’s the tricky part, getting your loved one to ACT NOW before it gets unsanitary and embarrassing for all involved. There is no easy way to approach the subject, but the smarter way is earlier rather than later. If you start talking about it while your loved one can still communicate fairly logically, it will be easier. If the affected one understands that she has Alzheimer’s disease, then that may take away a little of the resistance.

Explain that incontinence doesn’t make her any less of a person (mom, grandmother, sister, wife), it’s just an inconvenient part of Battling Alzheimer’s disease. Often, by the time the affected person is incontinent, he or she is in the later stages of the disease and it may just be a matter of selecting the best products and using them without the need for explanation or coaxing on your part.

Even still, you’ll need some information and guidance as to the products, how to use them properly and how to manage the process  so that it is clean and healthy for you and your loved one. That’s what we’ll talk about in the upcoming posts.

Until then, remember … Like I said in the post, “You gotta do what you gotta do….dealing with Incontinence.”  Everyone poops!

You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do….Dealing With Incontinence

March 17, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Happy Monday!

Did you get some REST over the weekend?  I hope you did, cuz Monday isn’t comin’ it is here.  Which means, if you are in the sandwich generation, it’s time to deal with school, extra curricular activities and caregiving.  If you are not in the sandwich, you are back to the workweek and still have lots to do.

I thought we’d spend the first part of this week talking about an uncomfortable, but almost inevetible part of Alzheimer’s caregiving.  Incontinence. 

Incontinence is the inability of a person to voluntarily control his or her bladder and or bowel functions.  Usually, it doesn’t  happen all at once, it takes place over a period of time.  Often bladder function fades first, followed by a decrease or disappearance of bowel control.  Maybe, granny’s urges are strong and when she says she has to go, she means she has to go NOW.  It could be that grandpa “leaks” a little and starts to have a slight (or not so slight) odor; or it could be that mom, who has become completely incontinent, has little to no control of her urinary and or bowel functions.

Fact:  People with Alzhiemer’s disease will eventually become incontinent.  The disease impacts brain function.  It is important to note that incontinence is NOT forgetting where the bathroom is or forgetting the steps required to locate and properly use the bathroom.  Incontinence in the person affected with Alzheimer’s disease is about the brain not working.  I mentioned in a earlier post that my mom and my son passed each other on the developmental spectrum.  He was growing and she was regressing.  As the brain loses function, they become like babies in almost every sense. Incontinence is part of what I call the “going back” syndrome.

Okay, let me just say it straight.  Urine is urine and poop is poop.  It’s not nuclear waste.  It’s not toxic waste and it won’t kill you!  As a matter of fact, everyone poops! 

We’ll get to the details of handling this issue later in the week, but for now, I need you to just understand that like your toddler teething, teenager driving and the IRS looking to hear from you on April 15, incontinence is coming.  So stay tuned and we’ll talk about what to do about it, how to handle the embarrassment associated with it, and some products and medications to make it more manageable. 

Believe me, if your loved one is NOT excreting then you have a much bigger issue to worry about.  So let’s navigate these murky (no pun intended) waters together as we explore the best ways to handle that which is inevitable for those of us who find ourselves in the honored position of Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Caregiver’s Corner…Get Some REST

March 14, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Dear Caregiver,

It’s Friday and the weekend is coming.  If you’re like I was there is no such thing as a weekend, the days just meld together into one v-e-r-y long day.  Your activities may be a little different, but at the core it’s all the same, whether is Saturday or Wednesday, you are a caregiver.   Alzheimer’s doesn’t take a break and the byproduct of working around the clock is stress.

I can remember being so tired and frustrated, I just wanted to get in bed, cover my head and cry.  Of course, I had a young son, so THAT was not an option.  I do recall that my son was at a friend’s house one day and I did climb into the bed, but I was so tired and had so much to do that I couldn’t rest.  My mind flitted from one to do item to another and finally I got up.  Honestly, it felt wrong and I felt guilty for resting in the middle of the day.  Never-mind that I had been up till the wee hours the night before; never-mind that I was an emotional wreck because I was watching my favorite girl, my mom, slip away right before my eyes.  Did I mention that I had a toddler at the time?  I just needed to give myself permission to r-e-s-t.

My friend. No, I don’t know you, but we are bound together because we are caregivers, so you are my friend.  I want to give you permission to r-e-s-t and I want you to give yourself permission to rest.

 Today, and every Friday, I plan to remind you of what an awesome thing you are doing.  Caring for your loved one is an amazing sacrifice and your corner of the world is a better place because of the work that you do.

Your husband may not be able to say thank you.  Your wife may express her frustration with outbursts of crying, but you are appreciated and loved for what you do.  So, for those who can’t articulate it, please accept this THANK YOU on their behalf.  You have worked hard and will continue to work hard, maybe even harder as time goes on.

I know I am stating the obvious, but YOU ARE NO GOOD TO YOUR LOVED ONE IF YOU ARE BURNED OUT. 

So, this weekend’s suggestion is to get some REST, physical rest and mental rest.  I know it’s tough, there are errands to run, meetings to attend and people to see. Just think about it.  When is the last time you slept in?  Can you recall when last you curled up in bed (or your favorite place) with a good book?  Even if it means that you sit in your car, with the seat reclined (in a safe place of course) or lock your bedroom door for a couple of hours, p-l-e-a-s-e get some rest.

Assignment:  Look for a family member, neighbor, church member, community organization that can provide you a break for a few hours a week.  Consider senior centers and adult day care programs as well.

Have a restful weekend,

Loretta

Dude, What’s Going On With Grandpa? Talking With Teens About Alzheimer’s Disease

March 13, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Teenage years are already complicated ones.  Toss in a grandparent or close relative with Alzheimer’s disease and the issues of driving, varsity sports, the latest fashions, gadgets, acne, social websites, braces and of course, dating are suddenly not so bad to deal with after all. 

Parents tend to go for the extremes when it comes to talking with teens about Alzheimer’s disease. Either they say nothing and almost act like if they don’t mention it, then eventually grandpa will come back to himself.  Or, they burden the teen with all of the information at once AND expect the teen to grasp it and instantly become co-caregivers.  Family dynamics are different and teens are different.  There are also variables such as the teen’s relationship with the affected person; whether or not the affected person lives with or in close proximity to the teen and how the disease is manifesting itself.

Before we get to the suggestions, just a note or four about teenagers in general. 

(1)   Teenage years are charcterized by the need to gain independence.

(2)   Teenagers are smarter than we think they are.

(3)   Teenagers need you much more than you think they do.

(4)   Teenagers tend to think and feel w-a-y more deeply than they appear to.

With those notes tucked into your back pocket, let’s look at some ways that we can talk with teens and help them to navigate the difficult truth:  Grandpa has Alzheimer’s disease.

Your teenager has probably at least heard of Alzheimer’s disease. Explain that it is a disease of the brain.  It is not just getting older or having “senior moments.”  In short, the brain cells die slowly and grandpa will lose various abilities as different parts of his brain are impacted.  Encourage your teen to do her own research and learn about the disease, and possibly present her findings to the family.

Encourage your teen to explore and express his feelings (see #4).  Let him know that it’s okay to be sad, angry and confused.  Your teen may feel jealousy about the amount of time and attention that the affected person is getting. He may feel guilty for getting mad or frustrated. He definitely may feel embarrassed if grandpa is given to strange behaviors.

  • The shared journal is a great idea. Take turns writing your thoughts and feelings about grandpa’s Alzheimer’s disease.  This exercise can open communication in other areas.
  • Penny For Your Thoughts?  When things get rough, and the communication slows down, agree that one of you can give the other a penny. That signals that you will take some time to sit down, regroup and TALK about what you are feeling.

Be available and present for your teen (see #3).  You, no doubt are stretched.  However, it is really important that you take some time just for your teen, just the two of you.  Hit the mall, play a game, watch a movie, talk.  Just be there so that your teen feels supported and loved through the ups, downs and changes.

Ask your teen for help (see #1, #2).  Tell her what needs to be done and solicit her participation and engagement in the caregiving process.  If there is something specific that you need her to do, then ask, but you may also want to provide a list of things that she can do and encourage her to select the one or ones she is willing and able to do. That way, she understands that she needs to pitch in, but is allowed to select how she’ll help out.  You might also leave the question open ended and allow your teen to evaluate the situation and see how she might be able to help.

Help your teen maintain as much normalcy as possible. (this one covers notes 1-4).  Everything is changing – the family dynamics, grandpa, and your teen.  So, it’s important that, when practical, some things stay the same.  Help your teen to continue soccor, cheerleading, after school job, etc. These are good outlets for your teen to just be a teenager.   

There really is no formula.  The most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open and revisit these issues as time progresses.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive With Alzheimer’s

March 10, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

It’s not their fault, but people with Alzheimer’s should not be driving.  I know that is not a popular position, and there are probably a few situations when the disease is still in the early stages, that driving might be okay.  But the question is this, why take the risk?

You see, it’s rare that doctors stumble upon Alzheimer’s Disease as they are doing a routine check up or testing for some other ailment.  So, when patients are diagnosed, it’s because they have already exhibited symtoms that have caused them or someone close to them a level of concern.  Whether it’s getting lost, a lapse in judgement, confusion or extreme forgetfullness, all of these are reasons to take the car keys and make other arrangements.

THAT is much easier said than done.   Driving represents independence and freedom.  It is one of the first “grown up” things we get to do as teenagers.  It is saddening, to say the least, when you have to take the keys away.  But look at it this way, either you take (or pry) the keys away or there might be a serious, even fatal accident.  Research shows that, “Three out of ten people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease had been involved in a serious car accident in the previous few months.” (The Alzheimer’s Sourcebook for Caregivers, Frena Gray-Davidson)

It’s difficult for the caregiver, too.  As you want to allow and encourage as much independence as possible.  You are proud that granny is 75 and still driving, but you have observed enough and perhaps used your passenger side brakes enough to know that its time for granny to stop driving.

First of all, it may help to talk about giving up the keys BEFORE it actually happens, that way there are no surprises. Maybe you could even come up with a timeframe or some parameters for when its time to give up driving.  We’ll look at some specifics regarding giving up the wheel in another post. In the meantime though, keep the lines of communication open.

Make a plan.  What is going to happen once granny gives up her keys?  Who is going to take her to the grocery store? How will she keep her Doctor’s appointments?  Who will get her to the Thursday night card game, etc.  It’s very important that the schedule is interrupted as little as possible.  Enlist family and friends to chip in and make sure she isn’t stuck and in need of a ride.  Consider other options, many cities offer free or very inexpensive transportation for seniors.

Ultimately, you may need help.  If granny won’t voluntarily give up the keys,  you might have to enlist the help of her doctor who can send a letter to the state licensing bureau.  If the doctor indicates that your grandmother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and should not be driving, they should take the proper measures

In the end, its up to you as the caregiver to take the lead and make sure that you, your loved one and other drivers are as safe as possible.  Your family and loved one have to be able to trust you to make the hard decisions as well as the easier ones.

I Wonder as She Wanders

March 7, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Battling Alzheimer’s Disease and its Compatriot Wandering

By nature, I am a pretty even tempered person. Not much gets under my skin. However, my mother’s wandering really got to me. She’d gather her coat and purse, and head for the door. By the time she had taken 10-15 steps, my normally 96/54 blood pressure had skyrocketed to stroke levels and I was s-t r-e-s-s-e-d.

No matter how much I talked, explained, used logic and my persuasion skills, she remained intent on going. Sometimes, she’d slip out of the door, without my knowing, and my toddler would announce to me that grandma was going, “bye, bye.”

This leads me to the question. What do you do about the wanderer? First of all, you take a long, deep breath. Please understand that you cannot convince your loved one not to wander. What you can do is put a plan in place, so that the frustration levels of all involved don’t go through the roof. After all, YOU are the logical one. There are several probable or possible reasons for wandering, which we’ll discuss in another post.

For now, let’s put Operation Anti-Wander in place

Operation: Distraction –You logically explaining to dad why he shouldn’t leave won’t most likely won’t work. However, pulling out some old photos, asking him about his favorite hobby, getting him to tell his favorite story (again), or soliciting his help with a chore just might be enough distraction to make him forget his original plan. You might also offer a glass of water or favorite beverage or even a snack.

Operation: Let ‘em go (as long as its safe) – My mom had arthritis in her knees. I am ashamed to say that it took me months of vain explanations, lots of tears and a few (private) temper tantrums to realize that the pain would stop her faster than I ever could. One day, I said, “okay, see you later,” as she walked out of the door. She made it to the end of the driveway, rubbed her knees and turned back towards the house while we hid in the doorway watching. Whew! It worked. A word of caution, as the disease progresses and the brain functions slow down, pain may not register.

Operation: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em – As a caregiver, your days are full. If your grandmother decides that she just must go for a walk another option is to join her. You could probably use the downtime and some fresh air. Get outside and enjoy the walk with her. You can be sure that she is safe, say hello to the neighbors along the way, and see the neighborhood though the eyes of the one you for whom you are caring. It’s so easy to “discount” the perceptions of someone’s whose reality is different from yours. The walk may give you a reality check and help you to realize that there may come a day that you wish, even long to go for a walk with your loved one.

Operation: Alarm – If things get serious and safety becomes a major concern, you might have to consider a chair, door or bed alarm.

Now, given that you may have a wander on your hands, please consider the following:

Join the Medic Alert/ Safe Return Programmedical info as well as family contact information is conveniently store in one location.

Notify your neighbors—Assuming your loved one wanders from home, your neighbors are your first line of defense. Let them know that there may be potential for wandering. They can give you a call or gently escort your loved one home.

Notify local police deptDepending on the size of your town, this might be a good idea. If someone goes missing, you will surely get the police involved, so giving them an advance call to check if they have a registry or procedure in place.

Hide a Key—You may have to run outside quickly or your loved one might lock everyone out. It’s worth it to give a key to a neighbor or hide one in a safe place.

Wandering is often a part of life for those who are battling Alzheimer’s disease. They are not doing it to annoy or stress you. Just imagine this. You get your coat, keys and list and head for the door. Someone stops you to tell you that you don’t need to go to the Dr., pick up the kids or play that round of golf. That is what it is like for the wanderer. In their minds, they have something important to do and you are hindering the process. So, put your plan in place and work your plan.Hey, I gotta run. I hear the door opening. It’s not my mom, but my 2 year old says he’s going, “bye, bye.” (but that’s another story).

Diagnosis: Alzheimer’s Disease! What’s a Caregiver to do?

March 5, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

You may have suspected, but now you know for sure.  It is a scary and uncertain time, but there are some things you can do now and into the future to make things a little easier as  you advocate and provide care for your family member.

Help your loved on to be as independent as possible for as long as possible. So encourage mom or dad to join an exercise class.  Maybe grandma can do some gardening.

Learn as much as you can about the disease.  Knowledge is power.  You will often feel overwhelmed. Staying one step ahead will help you to come to grips with what is happening and help you to prepare as changes occur.

Help your family member to make good nutritional choices.  My mother would have eaten Reese’s Cups 24/7 had I allowed her.  A balanced diet may help to diminish extremes in mood and help to keep some of those other aches and pains at bay.  How would you Prepare if you Knew Sooner About Alzheimer’s Disease?

Consider legal/financial issues.  Nobody wants to talk about it, but you may, at some point have to take over legal/financial responsibilities.  Try to broach the subject while things are going fairly well.  It’s very difficult to be a good caregiver/advocate if you are legally unable to make certain types of decisions.

Consider treatment options carefully.  Although, to date, there is not a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, there are medications. Learn about them and their interactions with other medications that your family member may be taking.

Consider safety options.  Observe them as they cook, get in and out of the shower/bath, drive, etc. It may be time to install bars in the bathroom, get a place all on one floor or have meals delivered.

Learn to communicate with someone who might not always be logical.  This is a tough one. Speak in simple, clear, direct sentences. You are not talking with the same person you were talking with five years ago.  All of the common sense and logic in the world may do nothing to change your grandmother’s mind.

Be as honest as you can for as long as you can with the one who has Alzheimer’s.  Your loved one needs to know that you, as the primary caregiver, can be trusted.

Consider long term care options.  It may be taboo, but better to consider and plan and never need it, than get caught in an emergency and have to take your  2nd, 3rd or 9th choice because of long waiting lists.

Take care of you (get active, eat right, take time to relax).  This should be number ONE. If you are depleted, you are no good to anyone. Take time for yourself. Enjoy a sport, watch a movie and find ways to be thankful for the honor it is to provide care for someone who can’t do it for themselves.  And if you do run into health issues, start here for resources and information.

Alzheimer’s Disease in the Blogosphere, 2/18/08

February 18, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

We don’t call Alzheimer’s disease “the Monster” for nothing. As recent blog posts suggest, Alzheimer’s terrifies many people. For some, any possible advance in research and treatment is grasped like a straw, or a lifeline. For others, Alzheimer’s disease is a daily, grinding burden as they care for a loved one, or sometimes, face it themselves. For still others, dementia causes them to look at life and their own health in a new way.

We think of Alzheimer’s disease as something that causes people to forget, but for the Memory Bridge project, it’s a call to remember and to bring generations closer. They’ve developed interview questions that are used for the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project, a school curriculum, and a highly-recommended documentary.

Robert DeMarco at I Am an Alzheimer’s Caregiver regards the value of exercise so highly in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, he’s signed up his 91-year-old mother to join Gold’s Gym. Doesn’t it pump you up just to hear that?

Jeannot at Life lessons coping with Alzheimer says her son has installed door alarms, but her husband took one off and said “the people” did it. Well, if he can’t remember doing something, obviously somebody else did it. You’ve got to make sense of your life somehow.

Filmmaker Gene Burns in Austin is looking for a film crew (including a director) for his short Alzheimer’s disease film called Ruth’s Locket. Having a storyboard would help him get funding for it. Liz at Alzheimer’s Notes mentioned the film on her blog. Production is scheduled for Summer 2008.

David Perlmutter, the Renegade Neurologist, reports that other doctors have treated several women whose inability to concentrate and to find the right words disappeared when they stopped taking the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor. The maker of the drug insists that it’s tested and safe, while the University of California at San Diego is conducted a large study on the effects of statin drugs. After all, one of the building blocks of the brain is cholesterol…

Mike at Fading from Memory has two parents with Alzheimer’s disease. His mother recently entered a nursing home, while his father has left dozens of phone messages asking about her. His family is considering placing his father in the same home. If they do, they’ll have a few weeks to pay a lump sum of $250,000 for his care. But that’s Australian dollars. It would only be $227,000 US or Canadian dollars, according to XE.com. Well, that’s better, isn’t it?

Most people agree that diet can help prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Whether it’s fish oil or mangosteen, we’re always enthusiastic to try something new (though maybe we have less enthusiasm for the fish oil). According to About Alzheimer’s, researchers at Cornell University have discovered some new foods that may lower your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. And those foods are… apples, oranges, and bananas. Are you eating 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables every day, like you’re supposed to? Well then, don’t complain if your memory starts to fail.

Deb at The Yellow Wallpaper talks about how her relationship with her mother has changed since she put her into a nursing home. For many of us, we don’t have deep relationships with our parents anymore, which makes a decision like that much harder – or easier. Deb loves her mother, but her mother is mad at her for putting her there. She says that with her mother, she has “to learn her new language, a language that has no past tenses… Her truth is in the present and has to do with what she is losing right now.”

Experts say that when people are first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, their loved ones recall that their memories were never very good. The Nun Study at the University of Kentucky has also identified factors that can help predict Alzheimer’s disease, such as whether the person could juggle multiple ideas at once when they were young. OurAlzheimer’s.com quotes the Archives of Neurology as reporting that some people with primary progressive aphasia, a rare language disability, report that they have always had trouble with spelling or foreign languages.

Trisha at Every Patient’s Advocate describes the nocebo effect. The placebo effect causes people to feel better because they’re taking prescriptions, even if they are sugar pills. The nocebo effect causes people to feel worse because the doctor told them they would. Trisha says she never believed them when they told her she had cancer, and it turned out she didn’t. The nocebo effect is described in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

If medical costs have to rise, then why does Dr. Benjamin Brewer say that he can provide primary health care for $20 per month per patient? (Actually, he’s doing it for $2 a month, but that’s under a government “health home” program.) He says, “Primary care is cheap.” What makes health insurance so expensive is its coverage of catastrophic events such as hospitalization. My guess is that fewer people would be in the hospital if they had better preventative care.

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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.