Tag Archives: dementia

Helping an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Want To Help Someone Who Is an Alzheimer’s Caregiver? Here Are Some Tips.

Attached is a very worthwhile read by blogger, Kathie Ritchie.  The article includes her suggestions as well as those of caregiver adviser, Marie Marley.  (Note: the links provided for Marie Marley appear to be broken, but Kathie includes Ms. Marley’s input within the body of her own blog article, making the content easily readable.)

Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios

Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios

Additional articles that will provide information and suggestions to non-caregivers on how they can help their neighbor, co-worker, besieged family member:

The above will give you more than enough material to provide readers with helpful suggestions.  If you don’t take the time to read the attached articles – and I sincerely hope you do – I’ll leave you with one suggestion that I hope you do follow:

If a caregiver doesn’t ask  for help while on his or her caregiving journey, don’t assume they aren’t in need of your assistance.  Offer specific assistance to them; don’t force them to come up with a suggestion on how you can help. 

Examples: “I have some individual frozen leftover meals I’d like to bring over for your household, what’s a good time for me to drop them off?” or “I’m headed to the grocery store, what can I pick up for you?”  or “It may sound crazy, but I enjoy working in the yard.  I’ve completed my Spring yard cleanup, I’d like to come over and help you with yours.”

Like Nike says, “Just do it!”

Teenage advocates against Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Teens (AFA Teens) brings hope that is sorely lacking from the Alzheimer’s medical community.  The younger generation is doing something that many of us older adults are not: bringing more awareness to a disease that most of us have been exposed to, either peripherally or specifically.  “AFA Teens, founded by a teenager, seeks to mobilize teenagers nationwide to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, and to engage, educate, and support teens and their families.”

My family in the 70s. My dad died from Alzheimer's, and my brother's wife died from Alzheimer's.

My family in the 70s. My dad died from Alzheimer’s, as did my brother’s wife.

As adults, we are affected because the person with the disease is our spouse, partner, sibling, or older relative.  But what about the cousins, nephews and nieces, children, and grandchildren out there?  Children and teenagers are also exposed to this disease.  The challenges faced by teens who are actively involved with these relatives – living close enough to have frequent interaction with them – are challenges that adults have a hard time grasping.

“How come Pappy doesn’t recognize me any more?”  “Why does mom always forget the things that are important to me – like my birthday!”  That’s right; some teenagers have mothers or fathers with early-onset disease.  What should be one of the most exciting times in their young lives is instead spent as a co-caregiver with their other parent.  (I addressed this unfortunate family dynamic in my article, Alzheimer’s Heartache: young family members adjusting to a grandparent or parent with dementia.)

I strongly encourage you to visit the AFA Teens website.  I know you will be encouraged by the efforts being made by these young advocates.

World-wide epidemic on your doorstep

A May 15, 2014 New York Times article, Alzheimer’s, a Neglected Epidemic by Ginia Bellafante, provides a keen look at a fatal disease that many still assume is one that only other people get.  Maybe my coworker a few cubicles away from me or the neighbors down the street will have to deal with some sort of dementia, but not our household – right?  You wish.  Alzheimer’s is a world-wide epidemic and it’s knocking on your front door.

In 2010, Alzheimer’s was the underlying cause in 500,000 deaths in the United States.

Let’s look at another epidemic with horrific fatality totals.  Remember the AIDS crisis?  As of the year 2010, in thirty years’ time, AIDS was responsible for 636,000 deaths in the U.S.   And yet Alzheimer’s – a very unpopular disease that is erroneously characterized as just an old person’s disease – racked up almost that many deaths in just one year.

Alzheimer’s isn’t just for geezers any more.

That’s the title of one of the chapters in my manuscript – a work of fiction that centers on the lives – patients and their family caregivers – affected by Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  A couple of my characters are in their 80s but there are three characters ranging in age from early 40s to mid 60s whose disease journey began when they were no longer considered young – but definitely not considered old.

What will it take to push people out of denial and into activism?

In the New York Times article linked above, AIDS activist, Peter Staley, is quoted as saying, “The hidden blessing of H.I.V was that it hit a community, my community, a community of mostly gay men.  We had a base of organizing that came out of Stonewall.”  [1969 demonstrations by members of the gay community in response to a police raid at Stonewall Inn, in Greenwich Village.]  And then he goes on to say, “Alzheimer’s hits old people.  There is no real organized community beyond AARP.”

I’m not happy with Mr. Staley’s characterization of Alzheimer’s as an old person’s disease because it perpetuates a myth that is simply not entirely true.  But I fully back his advice to all of us:

How does a large, affected community get the country to care?  It means playing a strong inside game: These family members need to organize effectively; they need to find their allies in Congress; they need to show up with sick people in front of key members of health communities.

Right on.

Alzheimer’s struck my dad in his mid-80s and my sister-in-law in her early 60s – both now deceased.

Who’s next?  Me?  My daughter?DSCF0511

You?  Are you doing your part to shine a spotlight on the hideousness of this fatal disease?  At the very least, have you made a monetary donation to the Alzheimer’s Association in your country – a donation from which you will personally benefit?  United Kingdom; Alzheimer’s Prevention; Alzheimer’s Society of Canada; Fight Dementia – Australia – to list a few.

Dog bite statistics and novel writing

If you have been bitten by a dog you’re in good company.  I read the following statistics in the May 16, 2014 issue of the Seattle Times newspaper:

  • In 2013, 4.5 million Americans were bitten by dogs in the United States;
  • The above total includes more than 2 million children and almost 5,600 U.S Postal Service employees.

Gee, statistics for 2014 will include me in the number of Americans bitten in the United States.  I seem to have greater potential for becoming part of those statistics than making a name for myself as a published author.

Future Margarita rewards for when my manuscript gets picked up.

Future Margarita rewards for when my manuscript gets picked up.

The title for this article is my shameless attempt to keep my novel-writing in the forefront of everyone’s minds.

I’m pretty excited however – not by the dog bite episode of May 7th – but by the status of my manuscript.  I’ve almost finished reading it through – for the zillion’th time – and thus far I’m pleased with the cohesiveness of the storyline.  I’m still making edits in grammar and punctuation – semi-colons and hyphens/dashes are really stymieing me – but I’m hoping if I do my very best, a copy editor will do the rest.  I am 100% certain that an agent will want to represent a book that throws a personal and touching spotlight on those who are living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  There’s not an agent or publisher out there who hasn’t been affected by this disease – either peripherally or specifically.

Please stay tuned as I will be providing updates in an effort to keep me on my toes, keep me honest, and get this d@*#mn book published.

Victories in Caregiving

This Magic Moment.

Mary's July Visit to Redmond 010The above mini-article, This Magic Moment, by a fellow blogger, is magnificent in its message of hope, love, and connection.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, in this instance a spouse, is a difficult task and so very unpredictable.  Sometimes the unpredictability brings heartache and extreme difficulty.

However …

sometimes the unpredictability results in a heart filled with renewed promise of goodness and beauty.  Celebrating every victory that comes our way – regardless of how small some may think it to be – is reason to strike up the band, blow up the party balloons, and relish the joy that exists in that very moment.

Caregiver Coaching Services

via Desonier Caregiver Coaching Services.

Click on the link above to read about one man’s journey from spousal caregiver to professional coach of those who are caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

My hero - my father: 1918 - 2007

My hero – my father: 1918 – 2007

During my time of caregiving, (my father died in 2007 from complications relating to Alzheimer’s disease) I oftentimes sought out the advice of anyone I could get my hands on who might a) lighten the emotional load I was carrying; b) lead me in the right direction when looking for next steps in the caregiving process; and c) let me cry a river as I pondered whether I was doing enough for the one for whom I provided care.

Way back when I was enmeshed on my caregiving journey, I was not aware that this type of coaching service was available – perhaps it wasn’t.  What speaks volumes to me is that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other dementia is such that more and more people seem to be adrift and searching for that beacon of light that might pull them safely to shore.

One thing I know for sure, however, is that if it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes at least that when trying to take care of a cognitively challenged parent, spouse, sibling, partner, or friend.

Driving Under the Influence of Dementia: Part 2

STOP signI addressed some of the issues of Driving under the influence of dementia in an article I wrote in November 2013.  Back then I hadn’t planned on writing a Part 2 for this article, but after a couple local incidents involving DUI of dementia, I must provide the following.

Yesterday afternoon in a suburb of Seattle (in Bellevue), an 89-year old woman with early stage Alzheimer’s left her house for her normal daily routine of going to her favorite pancake house, then to several retail locations.  She never returned home last night and as of today, she is still considered missing.  I hope the outcome of her case is better than that of another elderly person with Alzheimer’s who also went on a brief errand, but never came home.  (Update as of 12/28/13 6:45 pm: this woman was found safe approximately 16 hours after she first left her home.  She was found 20 miles away from home.  Unfortunately, she wandered 20 miles away from her normal driving area.)

On Saturday, December 21, 2013, Joseph Douret left his Seattle area home (in Issaquah), to grab dinner.  He was reported missing the next day by his wife who stated that he never came home the previous evening when he left to grab some dinner for the two of them.  Mr. Douret, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, was found dead in his vehicle on Christmas Eve.  Police indicated that he appeared to have died of natural causes.

Taking away the keys to a vehicle – or getting rid of the vehicle as need be – are both very difficult tasks, but these are tasks that must take place if a loved one with dementia still has access to their automobile.  “But he/she is only driving a few blocks to pick up a couple items; there’s no way he/she will get lost.”  Unfortunately, what should be a routine drive can become a death journey because nothing is routine for the person with a brain addled by dementia.  Nothing looks normal or familiar;  the anxiety ratchets up several notches; panic sets in; and the countdown begins for that person’s last hours of life on earth.  Even if the person is eventually found safe, he or she will have endured a very uncomfortable time emotionally and physically.  The positive outcome of that incident, however, is that it will most likely be the catalyst that spurs people on to remove all driving options from their loved one.

Please make the decision today to take action and do the responsible thing on behalf of the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.