Posts Tagged alzheimer’s care

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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DIY Pomander Balls

pomander ball

 

Feeling crafty? Make a homemade pomander ball! Pomander balls, commonly seen at weddings and baby showers, actually have very interesting historic roots. Learn more about the history behind the pomander here.

Buy rosettes at a craft store, create your own by shaping pieces of tissue paper, or punch/cut out flower shapes from scrapbooking paper. Use crochet pins to fasten each rosette into place on a large to medium sized styrofoam ball. Use the pomander ball as a centerpiece or tie a ribbon around the ball to be used as a hanging decoration.

Step by step instructions can be found here.

Remember, it’s the process not the product. Our primary goal is that the person enjoy themselves; it is not important that we create a flawless finished product. If it’s becoming apparent that the person is becoming confused or frustrated, leave the remainder of the activity for another day. In fact, it may be easiest to plan the activity over the course of several sessions, versus trying to do everything in a single sitting. If your person is further progressed in the disease, they may get more pleasure out of watching you do the activity or admiring the finished product. Be flexible and have fun with it!

 

 

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Fall Prevention

physicial therapy rehab

Every year, nearly 1/3 of all older adults will suffer from some type of fall. Older adults with dementia, however, are more than twice as likely to fall than those without cognitive impairment. Their falls may also be more severe, perhaps resulting in serious bone fractures, hospitalization, or life-threatening injuries. Persons with dementia that suffer from a fall at home are more likely to be admitted into some type of institutional care. In addition, the cost of treating and rehabilitating seniors that have fallen has sky-rocketed in recent years (Montero-Odasso, 2012).

walking down a hall

Researcher continue to study the most helpful methods for reducing risk of falls and preventing injury in those with dementia. Below are some tips that may be helpful in managing fall risk:

  • Implement a regular exercise program to maintain muscle and joint strength
  • Work with the person’s physician(s) to ensure that medication are not causing adverse side effects that could contribute to falls (e.g. dizziness, vertigo)
  • Maintain a regular toileting schedule for the person
  • Anticipate the person’s needs
  • Have a knowledge for the person’s likes, dislikes, routine, preferences, etc.
  • Ensure that clothing and shoes fit properly and are in good condition. Avoid slippers with no supportive backing, pants that are too long for the person, etc.
  • Clearly label key places in the home or residence, such as the bathroom or bedroom, even if the person has lived there for some time.
  • Ensure that the environment is clutter-free. Remove throw rugs that could slip beneath the person.
  • Create a visible pathway from the bedroom to the bathroom, particularly at night. Consider using a bedside commode.
  • If falling in bed is a concern, consider using lowering the mattress directly onto the floor. Do not install bed rails as this could increase the person’s agitation and restlessness. Many individuals with dementia may view bed rails as a sign that they are expected to be incontinent, or they perceive the rails as an obstacle to overcome, increasing the height of their fall. The person could become fatally injured if their head were to get caught between the rails.
  • Make sure the bathroom is not conducive for falls.  Remove clutter, use grab bars, and non-skid strip. A shower chair may be helpful.
  • Use color contrast where appropriate – for instance, a person may not see a white toilet in front of a white wall. Consider using a brightly colored toilet seat to draw the person’s attention.
  • Make sure there is ample lighting in well traversed areas.
  • Provide places for the person to stop and rest, if walking on a long hallway or path.
  • Ensure the person wears sensory aids, such as glasses or hearing aids, if needed.

References

Montero-Odasso, M. M. (2012). Gait and Cognition: A Complementary Approach to Understanding Brain Function and the Risk of Falling. Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society60(11), 2127-2136.

van Doorn, C. (2003). Dementia as a Risk Factor for Falls and Fall Injuries Among Nursing Home Residents. Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society51(9), 1213-1218.

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What’s the Deal with Aluminum?

aluminum pot

Have you ever heard that using aluminum pots or drinking from aluminum cans can increase your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease? Despite the prevalence of this myth, very few experts believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat. In fact, several studies have failed to confirm any role of aluminum in Alzheimer’s disease.

Some key points to consider:

  • Most researchers and mainstream health care professionals believe, based on current knowledge, that consumption of aluminum is not a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It is unlikely that people can significantly reduce their consumption of aluminum by avoiding aluminum containing cookware, foil, beverage cans, medications, or other products.
  • The exact role (if any) of aluminum in Alzheimer’s disease is still being research and debated.
  • If aluminum exposure had a major impact on risk, scientists would have already gained a clearer picture of its involvement over the decades that they have been studying the issue.
  • Research studies since the 1960s have failed to document a clear role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Although the results of some studies have suggested that consumption of aluminum may be linked to Alzheimer’s, just as many studies have found no link between aluminum consumption and Alzheimer’s.

To learn more about myth and Alzheimer’s disease, click here.

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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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