Posts Tagged alzheimer’s association

Alzheimer’s Chicken

Measure of the Heart

This activity idea comes from Measure of the Heart, a novel by Mary Ellen Geist, recounting her personal experience of returning home to Michigan to help care for her father who is diagnosed with dementia. Her father, Woody Geist, also appears in the HBO documentary “The Alzheimer’s Project”. The Geist’s resilience and candor in the face of this devastating disease is truly inspirational.

The following excerpt is taken directly from the book:

Alzheimer’s Chicken

  • whole chicken, about 4 pounds
  • 1 green apple, washed and cored
  • 3 stalks of celery, rinsed
  • 1 yellow or white onion, skin removed
  • several sprigs of fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 tbs olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse a 4-pound roasting chicken, removing and discarding the giblets from the cavity.

Place the green apple, celery, onion, and herbs on a large chopping board. Hand a not-so-sharp knife to the Alzheimer’s patient, depending of course on how far the disease has progressed. It may not be wise to do this for Alzheimer’s patients who’ve been living with the disease for more than ten years, but my father can still safely use a knife if I stand next to him and make sure he isn’t holding it upside down.

Let the patient chop up the fruit, vegetables, and herbs however the hell he or she wants to, without hovering and explaining how to do it! Don’t say: “No! Do it like this!” Remember: It doesn’t matter what the chunks look like or how big or small they are. The process can be liberating not only for the patient but also for you.

Open the cavity of the chicken and have the Alzheimer’s patient help you stuff the bird with a big wooden spoon. Put the chicken in a 9×13 inch baking dish or pan. Pour the red wine, olive oil, and a little water over the stuffed bird. Cook it in the oven at 350 degrees F for at least two hours, until the temperature of the thigh reaches 180 degrees F. Have the Alzheimer’s patient help you baste the bird often. Let it sit a bit after you’ve taken it out of the oven; then slice and serve.

 

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Find an Indoor Walking Path

indoor walking path

 

In the Midwest and other regions in the U.S., we have dealt with subzero temperatures, snowfall by the inches, and slippery, unsafe conditions for the past several days. If you usually enjoy being outside in fresh air, you might be finding it difficult to adjust to your new snowbound status. Most individuals spend more time indoors during the winter, but this is even more pronounced in older adults, those with dementia, and their caregivers. Persons with dementia may experience increased confusion due to shorter days, less sunlight, and disruptions from a normal routine. He/she may also exhibit “wandering” behavior which includes walking or pacing about and trying to leave a safe environment. Although not all wandering is bad, unsafe wandering has the potential to turn into a very dangerous situation.

To keep behavioral issues at bay, prevent unsafe wandering, and maintain levels of physical activity, consider frequenting a local indoor walking path or create a safe path to walk inside your own home. Many say that walking is one of the best exercises because it requires very little equipment, can be done almost anywhere, and can be done by almost anyone. Furthermore, walking with your person with dementia can help to channel wandering behavior into a safe outlet. As human beings, we have inherent impulses that drive us to be active and to seek out activity. Therefore, be deliberate in making sure your person is being stimulated and challenged at a comfortable level. And don’t worry, winter won’t last forever! 🙂

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Paint Rocks

lady-bug-rocks

Painting can be a relaxing activity that captures your person’s attention and keeps them focused. By keeping your person with dementia zeroed in on an activity, he/she is more likely to feel content, and behavioral concerns are less likely to appear. Recent research suggests that artistic activities may help individuals with dementia to express complex emotions, particularly when language ability fades. Art also provides intellectual stimulation for the person, which may help to keep cognitive powers sharp (although nothing can prevent dementia from progressing).

Furthermore, painting or (in this case) painting rocks is an activity that can be easily adjusted depending on the person’s remaining strengths and abilities. For instance, someone in the early stages of the disease may be able to execute a multi-step project over the course of a couple of sessions. The first session could consist of cleaning and sanding stones. The next session may involve painting a base color on a couple of rocks. The last session may include finer details (such as those seen in the ladybug picture).

Someone who is further progressed may do better with a shorter-term project with fewer steps, such as only painting rocks in solid colors or arranging (already painted) rocks in a decorative way. Even watching you paint or admiring your finished handiwork, might be pleasurable activities for someone in the later stages of the disease.

Materials you will need:

  • Smooth rocks (either found outdoors or purchased from a craft store)
  • Assorted acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes (various types)
  • Palette or mixing tray (e.g. paper plate, tin foil, styrofoam cup)

Helpful Hints:

  • As dementia progresses, the individual will need more supervision and guidance.
  • Consider using simple patterns for your design. Or you could add in more intricate details yourself, if desired.
  • Wear a painting smock or old set of clothing that is ok to get dirty.
  • Check out library books (such as those by Lin Wellford) for inspiration and step-by-step instruction.
  • Be alert to signs of frustration or boredom. Adjust the activity, so that it is a good match for the person based on their remaining strengths.
  • If the activity goes awry or causes the person to become agitated, be prepared to stop.
  • Your finished rocks can be used as decoration, such as on a countertop or in a garden. A functional use for painted rocks is to use them as garden markers for various plants/herbs (pictured above).

 

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Play with a Pet

t1larg_old_man_dog

You probably know that pet therapy is an emerging area of research and application in care of people with dementia. While therapy dogs have special training and certification, any well-behaved dog cat, or rabbit can potentially bring a little joy and a lot benefits to a person with memory loss. While companionship is an obvious benefit, pets may also help with agitation, depression, and anxiety. It’s not uncommon to watch someone transition from emotionless to animated or from agitated to calm when a pet enters the room, especially if it triggers pleasant memories. However, keep in mind that the opposite reaction is possible as well!

Of course, to some caregivers, the idea of adding another thing to care for, no matter how cute and cuddly, sounds pretty overwhelming, so don’t feel as if you have to adopt a pet to get the benefits. Even having a friend bring a well-behaved pet for a visit is a great option. Of course, it’s important to be mindful of the pet’s temperament and energy level. In general, too much jumping and/or excessive barking may do more harm than good. Also, be sure that the animal is a good “match” for the person with memory loss. A 90 pound woman who’s unsteady on her feet probably shouldn’t walk an excitable St. Bernard; someone with thin skin and on Coumadin might want to stay away from a cat with sharp claws; someone who throws things when angry should probably be supervised around a small yorkie…you get the idea. Of course, animals are unpredictable, as can be people with dementia, so supervision if probably wise, especially in the beginning while everyone is getting to know each other.

Other tips for success:
1. People in the later stages of the disease may respond better to animals that remind them of animals that remind them of former pets. But be warned: they might not like having to leave the “family dog” behind when they leave!
2. People love to feed animals, so be sure to have appropriate treats available for the person with dementia to feed the pet or you might find that they get a lot of people food!
3. Even those in the late stages of the disease can enjoy petting a soft dog, cat, rabbit, gerbil, etc. Even just hearing a cat purr across the room can be soothing, so don’t feel like the animal has to be right next to the person to have a positive effect.
4. Don’t forget to reminisce!

More information about pet therapy can be found at:
http://www.everydayhealth.com/alzheimers/how-animal-therapy-helps-dementia-patients.aspx

http://www.alzheimersproject.org/About-Us/News-Photos-and-Calendar/Latest-News/Pets-and-Dementia

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Keepsake Cookbook

Do you and your loved one love cooking? Maybe baking is what makes you feel at home. In either case, there is something to be said about the feeling you get when taking your first bite of a home cooked/baked treat.

Keepsake Cookbook_2.jpg

 

Creating a cookbook with your care partner can be a fun way to reminisce and leave a legacy for generations to come. It can be as simple as compiling old recipe cards or as intricate as creating a recipe book online complete with pictures. Keep in mind that this project doesn’t have to be finished overnight. It can simmer for days, weeks, or months to come!

Step 1: Choose your recipes

What are your family’s trademark recipes? Is there anything that has become a traditional birthday dinner, holiday dish, or rainy day snack?

Step 2: Choose your Methods

You might want to talk with your loved one and decide on a type of cookbook that will best combine your creative style with your skill set. You could write out individual recipes on index cards to insert in a scrapbook, create a larger more intricate scrapbook, or use online websites (e.g. Shurtterfly.com) to make one digitally. Feel free to exercise creative freedom, engage others in the process, and make changes based on skills and abilities.

Step 3: Write your book

Try making the dishes as you go! Talk about the smells, colors, and textures of different foods. Use this time to reminisce and identify fun memories associated with your recipes. Feel free to include these stories in your book! Additionally, if your loved one needs more assistance in the kitchen, be sure to break down each task into clear simple steps.

Step 4: Share your book with others

A cookbook made with you and your loved one is a beautiful representation of your family’s traditions, history, and relationships. You can use this book and its recipes to share your story with other family members and friends.

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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. 

diagnosis

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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Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again! The tulips and daffodils are in bloom, the sun is shining, and the weather is warming up to beautiful breezy temperatures. With all of the freshness of blooming nature, why not use this season to bring freshness into your home?

Not only does Spring Cleaning give you an excuse to scrub those areas that get little attention during the closed-in cloudy days of winter, but it can also reduce stress. Clutter and mess can be especially anxiety provoking for people with dementia as it can result in over stimulation. With too much clutter, people can be distracted by their surroundings, confused by the number of objects that they need to ascribe meaning to, and clutter can be a signal that there is work to be done. Additionally, clutter in hallways and walkways can be a fall risk. So, while working to clean and de-clutter your home, why not engage your loved ones in helping?

Ways to involve people with dementia in spring cleaning:

  1. Folding, hanging up, and putting away laundry
  2. Washing dishes
  3. Wiping down tables and countertops
  4. Dusting
  5. Sweeping
  6. Sorting through old magazines

Additional Tips:

  • Break down larger tasks into simpler individual steps
  • Encourage people to be as engaged as their skill set allows
  • When sorting through or dusting pictures, magazines, etc., use this opportunity to reminisce. Just be sure to avoid saying, “Remember when…?”
  • Take breaks when necessary. People with dementia often respond more readily to your emotions than your words, so be careful to not convey exasperation, anxiety or anger with your body language. Try to view these activities as fun and energizing!
  • Engage people in cleaning tasks that they’ve done frequently or enjoyed in the past.
  • Always pay attention to any safety hazards that could come up while cleaning.
  • Remember that the value is in the process rather than the result. If your loved one’s task isn’t finished exactly the way you like it, that’s OK. Use these activities as a chance to engage physically, mentally and socially with your loved one and worry about the results later.

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