Archive for Caregiving Tips

Getting Ready for the Holidays

 

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The holidays are a highly anticipated, but often stressful, season. For many, our financial, social, and physical demands increase significantly as the holidays rapidly approach. Buying gifts for others, entertaining guests, and making travel arrangements are common added responsibilities at this time of year. If you are a caregiver for a person with dementia, it may be difficult to juggle these additional tasks alongside your regular caregiving routine.

Little research has been done about caregiving during the holiday season, although it has been acknowledged by many as a uniquely stressful phenomenon. Below are some helpful hints on how to best prepare for and survive this special time of year. Happy Holidays everyone!

Prepare Family Members in Advance

The holidays can be a turbulent time for some, so it can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive. Initiating the conversation early will also allow family members an opportunity to surface any questions or concerns they may have.

If the person is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, relatives and friends might not notice any changes. But the person with dementia may have trouble following conversations or may be likely to repeat him/herself.  Family can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts.

If the person is in the middle or late stages of Alzheimer’s, there may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited.  These changes can be hard to accept. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disease and not the person.

You may find this easier to share changes in a letter or email that can be sent to multiple recipients. Consider also including a recent photograph of the person with dementia, so family/friends are aware of any physical changes that may have taken place.

Re-Evaluate Holiday Traditions

It’s likely that both  the person with dementia and the family would still like him/her to participate meaningfully in the holiday celebrations. Involve the person by building on past traditions and memories. Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums. As the person’s abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, and help decorate or set the table. This could be as simple as having the person measure an ingredient or hand decorations to you as you put them up. (Be careful with decoration choices. Blinking lights may confuse or scare a person with dementia, and decorations that look like food could be mistaken as edible.)

Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing. For instance, if the person is accustomed to eating lunch at a scheduled time, stick to that time. Encourage family members and friends to assist you in this. Plan time for breaks and rest.

Be flexible and adjust traditions appropriately. For example, a smaller, shorter gathering during the day may be more successful than a large celebration that carries on into the late evening.

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9 Reasons Why Meaningful Activities Are Important in Dementia

Individuals with dementia benefit from engaging in activities for many reasons. Meaningful activities address the social and psychological needs of the individual by tapping into their sense of personhood and allowing them to feel included and needed. Activities also help to keep behavioral concerns at bay, improve quality of life, and may even make caregiving tasks go easier. It is important that the activity be a good fit for the person based on their progression of the disease, remaining strengths, and personal interests.

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Courtesy of verywell.com, here are 9 additional reasons why meaningful activities are so important!

  1. Mental Stimulation: Activities that challenge and engage your brain are beneficial in maintaining cognitive functions and may even slow down the progression of the disease.
  1. Physical Activity: Activities that involve physical activity improve and maintain overall function of the body’s mobility, can increase strength, and have positive effects on the brain.
  1. Social Interaction: When individuals engage in socialization they are more likely to have better overall mental and social health.
  1. Improvement in Sleep Habits: Engagement in activities throughout the day keeps your loved one engaged and less likely to fall asleep during the day.  Reduced napping during the day will lead to better sleep habits at night time.
  1. Improvement in Self-Esteem: Individuals with memory loss may struggle to cope with their declining abilities. When they are engaged in activities in which they can be successful, it is a boost to their self-esteem.
  1. A Change in Behavior Challenges: When individuals with dementia are engaged in activities of interest, behavioral challenges tend to diminish.
  1. Decrease Depression and Anxiety: Engaging individuals with dementia in meaningful, engaging activities has been shown to decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  1. Caregivers Benefit: Meaningful activities bring happiness and joy to your loved one with dementia, which by itself is a benefit to caregivers.  Caregivers have the opportunity to have more positive interactions with their loved ones.
  1. Overall Health: Overall, meaningful activities can keep your love one with dementia engaged and their minds stimulated.

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Our Story to Diagnosis on the Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia Roller Coaster

Hello, readers! I am excited to share a post with you that was written by a guest contributor. This caregiver’s journey toward getting a diagnosis for her husband was quite the roller coaster and took many twists and turns. Please read on to learn more about her and her spouse’s experience, and her advice for other caregivers. 

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It all began in August of 2016, when after answering the same question for the fifth time in as many days to my husband of 26 years I decided to keep track of things I thought might not be normal. In mid-October I sat my husband down and told him I was going to go to with him to his annual check-up in November. He asked “Why?”.  I simply stated that I had noticed some things that concerned me about his cognitive state. He looked puzzled but agreed.

On November 22, 2016, with a little over two pages of notes and the Alzheimer’s Association’s Preparing for Your Doctor’s Visit sheet in hand, we were ready for our visit.  Dr. H. came in after reviewing the documents, sat down across from us, and said he would like to do some testing. Dr. H. administered a mental status exam, and unfortunately, the test results indicated that my husband was cognitively impaired. With a series of blood tests and a CT scan scheduled to take place before our next appointment in December, we left the doctor’s office with our heads swimming!  I asked my husband, through tears, if he was mad at me. I told him it was ok to be mad at me.  This is not what I wanted, but I couldn’t stand by with my head in the sand and pretend that nothing was wrong!

During this time, I was watching my husband go to work and come home with nothing left to give because he was trying so hard to keep it together at work. I decided that we needed some advice so I called the Alzheimer’s Association Helpline on a snow day off from school. They helped to talk me through the situation and even talked to my husband

As roller coasters do, ours was about to take a plunge down a steep hill!  At our neurology appointment in April, we were wretched about the tracks as Dr. R. told us he feels certain that Jack does NOT have Alzheimer’s but another form of dementia, possibly Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). Dr. R. explained that my husband’s behavioral changes and his age were indicative of FTD.

One of the hardest things about dementia and especially the one we may be facing is:

  • That family and friends don’t understand he looks healthy and can hide it well for short periods of time.
  • They don’t see this man sobbing because he’s afraid he’s going to forget you and he does not want to be alone going through this.
  • They don’t see the fear in his eyes when he can’t figure out how to turn the shower off.
  • They don’t see the agitation that he can’t explain.
  • They don’t see how much you just want your old life back.
  • They don’t see that you will go to the ends of the earth for this man to keep him safe and at home with you.
  • They don’t understand how isolating it is for us both.

I know that one day this roller coaster ride will be over but for now it’s the ride we’re on. And it’s definitely not one to be on alone!  So friends, if you are on a similar roller coaster ride, pick up that phone and call for help!  You are not alone! Call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 1.800.272.3900 for support.

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Keeping Your Loved One Safe

Location Devices

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, as many as 6 in 10 people with dementia will wander at some point during their journey with the disease. This behavior becomes dangerous when an individual with Alzheimer’s becomes lost and disoriented.  The person may no longer remember their address, locations they were once familiar with, and possibly their name. The following products are designed to keep your loved one safe in case a wandering incident does occur.

MedicAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® MASR

The Alzheimer’s Association MedicAlert + Safe Return includes:

  • A personalized identification bracelet for the person with dementia to wear
  • A personalized emergency card for their wallet, on the card is their member identification number and the emergency toll-free number
  • 24-hour emergency response service
  • Optional identification bracelet available for the caregiver to wear, which alerts anyone in case of an emergency that this person is caring for an individual with a MedicAlert + Safe Return services

For more information:  Visit www.medicalert.org/safereturn or Call 1-888-572-8566

PocketFinder GPS Senior Tracker

PocketFinder GPS

  • Allows you to see the location of your loved one that is wearing the PocketFinder on them
  • Allows you to view location on the app or on the computer
  • For more information: Visit www.pocketfinder.com/gpsseniortracker/

GPS SmartSole®

  • Has a GPS device located in the sole of the shoe and works like smartphone technology
  • Refreshes and checks in with you every 10 minutes letting you know where your loved one wearing the GPS SmartSole® is located

For more information:  Visit www.gpssmartsole.com/gpssmartsole/ or Call 213-489-3019

Freedom/Pal GPS Watch

Freedom Pal GPS Watch

  • A watch with a GPS tracker in it that your loved one wears and a receiver that the caregivers has
  • Allows you to view your loved one’s location via the website or your smartphone
  • Allows you to set zones that are safe and alerts you when your loved one is outside of those zones

For more information:  Visit www.rmmedicalsales.com/products.html or Call 952-457-3401

Mobile Help GPS

Mobile Help GPS

  • Mobile Help is an emergency help button that requires the person wearing it to press the button, which alerts the 24-hour emergency call center.

For more information:  Visit www.mobilehelp.com/ or call 1-800-992-0616

Micro GPS Tracking System

  • Can be used for your loved one or for the car
  • Options to set safety zones and when your loved one is outside of the set zones you will be alerted.

For more information:  Visit www.gpstrackingtracker.com/Senior-Adult-Trackin or call 1-561-235-7878

Keruve Family Direct Locator

Keruve Family Direct Locator

  • A watch with a GPS in it
  • Has a safety lock so that it cannot be removed by your loved one wearing the watch
  • Can locate your loved one by simply pressing a button located on your receiver and their location and position will appear on a map located on your receiver

For more information: Visit www.keruve.com/ or call 530-303-8893

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Join a Support Group

Have you ever thought about attending a support group but were reluctant to give it a try?

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Support groups are a safe place to share feelings and experiences, and many people find them to be invaluable resources.

A support group is a place to:

  • Exchange practical information on caregiving problems and possible solutions
  • Talk through challenges and ways of coping
  • Share feelings, needs and concerns
  • Learn about resources available in your community

All of our support groups are facilitated by trained individuals. In addition to caregiver support groups, we also have support groups designed specifically for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. We are currently offering early stage support groups in Birmingham and Taylor (and soon, in Sterling Heights too!). To learn more or to register, please dial our 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

Want to find a Alzheimer’s Association support group near you? Click here. Prefer to get support online? Join AlzConnected, our online community.

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Tips for Managing Dental Hygiene

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Dental care can be a challenge for individuals with Alzheimer’s because of their inability to understand the purpose of brushing teeth or to accept help from others.

Tips for helping the person with dementia manage dental care:

  • Provide short, simple instructions: “hold your toothbrush,” “put paste on the brush,” and “brush your top teeth,”etc.
  • Use a mirroring technique — hold tooth brush and show person how to brush his/her teeth or brush your teeth at the same time
  • Brush teeth or dentures after each meal and floss daily
  • Remove and clean dentures every night
  • Brush person’s gums, tongue and roof of mouth
  • If person refuses to open his/her mouth, try using oral hygiene aids available from the dentist to prop the mouth open
  • Strained facial expressions during dinner or refusal to eat may indicate oral discomfort
  • If you notice dental or gum problems, take the person to the dentist
  • Notify the dentist in advance that person has Alzheimer’s so that an oral care routine can be developed

 

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